Magic Eraser is still the best Google Pixel party trick

Magic Eraser is still the best Google Pixel party trick

When Google launched the pixel 6 Y Pixel 6 Pro, one of the featured features was Magic Eraser. It’s a relatively simple tool in the Photos app that lets you remove people or objects you don’t want to be in the background of an image. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to try a Pixel phone to begin with, because this is the kind of thing I wish Apple had done with iOS years ago.

Since joining Digital Trends here, I’ve had the opportunity to check out Android devices, including Google pixel 6a and the new pixel 7. I am primarily an iPhone user with my iPhone 14 Probut I’ve been testing Magic Eraser on the Pixel 7 to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be, even though the feature originally debuted on the Pixel 6 series. Here’s what I’ve found.

It’s easy to use and works surprisingly well.

Erasing items in Magic Eraser.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

One of the main reasons I wanted to try the magic eraser feature is because I have a lot of photos from Disneyland. As you can imagine, Disneyland is a place where it is practically impossible not to have people in the background of the photos.

I have a Magic Key to Disneyland (also known as an annual pass), so I go there frequently (sometimes just to take photos), either my own photos or through Disneyland’s PhotoPass service. And unless you’re lucky, there’s always someone in the background of what would otherwise be a perfect shot.

Ever since I got my hands on the Pixel 7, I’ve been transferring my photos from my iPhone 14 Pro to my Google Photos account for the sole purpose of editing them with Magic Eraser. I found that Google will give me editing suggestions as I browse through my photos, which I found nice, though it didn’t always show up for images I thought might use Magic Eraser-ing. Anyway, I started putting that Magic Eraser tool to the test.

In most of my images, Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) automatically detects people and objects in the background once I press the Magic Eraser button, and sometimes it doesn’t. However, when it magically detected those unwanted background objects, I was able to see them highlighted and, with a single tap, removed them from the image.

I realized that Magic Eraser would leave behind some items that the erased person would have, such as a stroller or a balloon, and that’s when I tried to manually erase those items that were left behind. When Magic Eraser had trouble automatically detecting things to get rid of, it was quite easy to manually circle or highlight those unwanted objects.

Magic Eraser is also great for getting rid of minor blemishes on a photo, such as dust or debris, scratches and scuffs, stray hairs, or other small things you notice after taking the photo. It is a simple tool that allows quick and easy removal of unwanted objects in your photos. But like everything else in life, it’s best used sparingly.

Definitely not a full Photoshop replacement

As much as I like to use Magic Eraser, I noticed that it is far from perfect. In my tests, I found that it’s great for weeding out some more prominent people in the background. However, since Disneyland is often crowded and you’ll have dozens of people in the background at any given time, Magic Eraser seemed to struggle with those situations.

While I was able to erase those dozens of people, I left a lot of digital artifacts in those places as they needed to be filled, so the final image looked worse than before. And while we mostly look at our photos on the small screens of our smartphones, the noise Magic Eraser left behind was too much and too noticeable to the naked eye. As much as you want to rely on Magic Eraser, it’s certainly not ready to replace a professional Photoshop job.

Camouflage helps eliminate more distractions

Google added a Camouflage tool together with Magic Eraser with the pixel 6a, and eventually made its way to the rest of the Pixel lineup, including the new Pixel 7 series. Camouflage helps pick up the slack where Magic Eraser isn’t the best tool for the job; this is especially true when background objects may overlap with other elements in the image, which is often the case at Disneyland.

I’ve found Camouflage to be a good alternative for those times where Magic Eraser makes the end result look worse than I’d like. With Camouflage, instead of trying to remove an object completely, it desaturates it, making it blend more into the background and not distract from the subject. Although it really depends on the lighting in the photo, using Camouflage can sometimes be a better solution than using Magic Eraser to reduce distractions. I noticed that Camouflage didn’t do much in the daylight, but at night it helped brightly colored clothes blend in better.

Again, Magic Eraser is far from perfect, but with the addition of Camouflage, it really helps make it a powerful mobile photo editing tool.

All phones must have Magic Eraser built-in

After playing with Magic Eraser for the past few weeks, I really appreciate having it on my Pixel 7. I wish Apple would add such a feature to the iPhone, as it is still my main device and what I use the most for photos. Sure, Apple added the ability to remove the background from a photo with iOS 16, but that’s far from the same as Pixel’s Magic Eraser tool. Also, I don’t exactly want to download a third-party app and pay a subscription to unlock that functionality that Android devices have.

As much as Apple touts the camera features in the latest iPhone, it’s surprising that they still don’t have a Magic Eraser-like feature. I can’t be the only one who wants this on the iPhone, can I?

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