It doesn’t take much to ruin an otherwise great photo. That could mean there’s someone you don’t want in the background or a distracting, brightly colored object behind your subject that you didn’t see when you snapped the shutter. Removing these uninvited guests from images usually takes time, expensive software, and advanced knowledge of photo retouching. If you’re short on any of the above, Google wants to help — that is, if you have a current Pixel.
Google introduced its Magic Eraser feature with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, and it’s available on the Pixel 6A, too. It’s designed to address the scenarios above by removing or masking distracting elements from your photos. The results aren’t exactly, uh, magic, but they’re often better than what you started with. In any case, you don’t need a Photoshop subscription to try it out.
I followed these steps on a Pixel 6A running Android 12 with the April 2022 security patch.
- Open Google Photos
- Tap the photo you want to edit to open it
- Magic Eraser may appear as one of the suggested editing tools, but if you don’t see it, then tap Edit > Tools > Magic eraser
You might also end up in the Magic Eraser tool if you’re browsing through your photos and see (and tap) a suggestion to “Remove people in background.” In either case, the workflow below is the same.
The system will look for areas that it can suggest to erase, and if it finds any, text will appear at the bottom of the screen saying “Suggestions found.” The suggestions are highlighted in the image with a white border.
On the Pixel 6A, there’s also a toggle at the bottom of the screen to switch between two modes: Erase and Camouflage. Erase will completely remove the object and use AI to try and fill in the background based on context; Camouflage will just change the color or brightness of the area to make it less distracting. You can switch between these modes by tapping them, and as you do, the suggested area will change accordingly.
To use the phone’s suggestions, tap either Erase all or Camouflage all, depending on which mode you’re in (and which phone you’re using). If you’d rather manually select an object or area for Magic Eraser, tap the “X” on the text prompt to dismiss the suggestions. Use your finger to draw on the area you want to modify — you can either brush over the entire area you want to modify or circle it. You can also pinch to zoom in, which is really helpful if you’re making a manual selection. Use two fingers to move around to different parts of the image and one finger to draw and make your selection.
Once you take your finger off the screen, it will automatically apply the effects to your selected area. You can use the undo and redo buttons on the bottom of the screen to un-apply and re-apply changes or tap Reset to revert back to the original.
When you’re finished, either tap Done to save your changes or navigate back to the main editing screen — from there, you can keep using other editing tools or save a copy of your photo.