Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Pixel 7 Pro showing a photo

June Wan/ZDNET

We currently live in an age where our smartphones and cameras get first dibs on the fondest of memories. Whether it’s consuming the extravagance of a family dinner before our stomachs do, or capturing the breath of a scenic view before we stop and stare, what our handheld photo machines snap is what follows us down memory lane. 

But even the most casual photographer knows that not every moment can be perfectly captured. There’s always someone or something that gets in the frame, or that one person wearing a neon shirt who draws all the attention. Google’s Tensor-powered smartphones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series, can fix such problems — and it doesn’t involve time traveling. 

By making use of the company’s custom system on a chip (SoC), Tensor, every Pixel 6 and 7 model has a Magic Eraser feature you can use to magically wipe out any unwanted subjects in an image. I will say that the feature doesn’t work 100% of the time and may leave traces of editing if you push it hard enough, but how simple the tool is to use gives it Photoshop-replacing potential: Magic Eraser may be the saving grace to an otherwise imperfect picture. Here’s a walk-through of how to use the Pixel feature.  

Review: Google’s Pixel 7 Pro zooms past Samsung on this one camera feature

How to use Magic Eraser on the Google Pixel

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s make sure your Google Pixel supports the Magic Eraser function. Here’s a list of all the compatible devices:

  • Google Pixel 6
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
  • Google Pixel 6a
  • Google Pixel 7
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro
Before and after removing extra figures from a beach photo

And here’s a taste of what Magic Eraser can do. 

June Wan/ZDNET

If you have one of the supported Pixels, the next step is to check that your Google Photos app is up-to-date. Otherwise, Magic Eraser may not appear as a photo-editing tool.

Within Google Photos, find an image that you’d like to use Magic Eraser on. Ideally, it should have discernible subjects both up close and afar. The editing feature also works best with solid textures.

Once you’ve selected a photo, tap on Edit at the bottom. Google may list Magic Eraser as one of the suggested tools, but if not, tap the Tools category and then Magic Eraser.

The Pixel will take a moment to scan the image and highlight suggestions for you to erase. From here, you can tap on the subjects individually or Erase all if you’re feeling high-powered. There’s an undo toggle at the bottom should you change your mind about an edit.

You can also manually highlight what you want to erase by brushing over the subject. The shading doesn’t have to be perfect; as long as it covers a specified person, place, or thing, the Pixel should be able to draw context from its surroundings and fill in the area.

More: Comparing Google’s best phones

The same beach scene with the intermediate selection step shown

Screenshot by June Wan/ZDNET

Those with a keen eye may have noticed the Camouflage option when using Magic Eraser. While the process of using Camouflage is the same as Erase, instead of removing a subject from the background, your Pixel will adjust the coloring of the selected subject to match the surroundings. Remember the guy with the neon shirt that I mentioned at the start of the article? That’s what this feature is for.

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