Do you have old black and white photographs of relatives and events? Do you wish they were in color? They can be! Add color to back and white photos automatically using a website or an app.
Color photography was invented over 150 years ago, but it was awkward and difficult to do. It did not become popular until the 1960s and black and white photography was around until 1970. In the old days you had to insert rolls of film into clunky cameras that were hard to use. Then when the film was full, it had to be sent off for processing. It could be weeks before you got the black and white prints back.
It is a different world today where everyone has a camera in their pocket in the form of a smartphone and it takes great photos under a wide range of conditions. Even better is that the whole processing palaver has been ditched and we can instantly see our snapshots.
Many people have an interest in old black and white photographs taken 50 or more years ago. If you research your family tree for example, you will come across dozens of monochrome photos of relatives that lived long ago, like grandparents, great grandparents, their children and others.
Childhood photos of your parents may be black and white, your grandparents wedding photos are black and white, older relatives and so on, are all black and white. Newspapers were also black and white and you may have old clippings that featured relatives or events from long ago.
Magically colorize old photos
Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow magically turn those black and white photos into color ones? We could see people, objects and events as they really were, but how can this be done?
If you are highly skilled with Photoshop or another photo editor, you may be able to manually color black and white photos yourself. We do not know the real colors in a photo, but we can often make a pretty good guess. We know what skin colors are like and what clothes people wore, so armed with Photoshop and a lot of skill and patience, you could color a photo.
What if you do not have the skills, the time, or even Photoshop?
Here is a great website that can color black and white photos for you. Image Colorizer is free to use and there are also apps for Windows, iPhone and Android phone. Let’s take a look at what it can do and see a few examples.
The website works on Windows PC, Apple Mac and Linux and it really does not matter what computer is used. However, there are file limits:
- Photo files up to a maximum of 4 MB
- Photos with dimensions up to 3,000 x 3,000 pixels
- Only .jpg, .jpeg and .png photo file types
Photos can be dragged from the computer’s disk and dropped on the browser window to upload them to the Image Colorizer website. Click the START button and in less than a minute, the colorized photo is ready to download. Click the DOWNLOAD button and it opens in a new browser tab. Right click the image and it can be saved to disk in the usual way.
Color black and white images
I had some old black and white photo prints from the 1950s and I used my iPhone to photograph them. The iPhone saves photos that are too big and also in the wrong file format, large HEIC images, so I used Preview on the Apple Mac to make them a bit smaller and saved them as JPG images. You could use GIMP on Windows to do the same thing.
The photos were uploaded to Image Colorizer and then the colored photos were downloaded. Here is an example, shrunk and compressed to fit on a web page, the actual image is 2,000 pixels high.
OK, the colored image is not perfect and if I was picky I could say the grass is not green enough, but this is a fantastic result. I could never achieve that even with Photoshop and a month to work on it. It looks very like you would expect a color photograph to look from the 1950s.
The skin tones are good, the dress is not quite, but almost white, the suite looks realistic and there is even some color in the flowers. I have no idea what color the flowers really were, but this looks great.
Here is another example.
There are absolutely no controls, no buttons, no sliders, no way and no need to change anything. This is entirely automatic. You upload a black and white photo and download a colored one.
Color images on your phone
The mobile app for iOS and Android is interesting and in some ways is better. You can take a photo of a black and white photo using the phone’s camera, then upload it from the phone’s Gallery or Photos library through the Image Colorizer app. The photo downloads and saves back to the Gallery or Photos app. Everything is done on the phone.
Optional filters can be applied to the colorized black and white photo if you want. I wasn’t too keen on most of them, but there is one that enhances the color and saturation that I liked.
The phone app is limited in free mode and photos are resized to 1,200 x 1,200 pixels. Filters cannot be added in free mode. Upgrade to Pro for $9.99 a year and these limits are removed. If you do not need the filters or the convenience of doing everything in the phone app, the website works with images up to 3,000 x 3,000 for free.
This is a great website and the apps are good too.
AI Picture Colorizer
There are other websites and apps that can add color to black and white photos in various ways and AI Picture Colorizer is well worth trying because it has some useful features. Just go to the website and select and upload a black and white photo. It is free to use.
There are five Colorization Factor settings. Select one, click the Colorize button and a thumbnail is added to the right. A different Colorization Factor can be selected and clicking Colorize again adds another thumbnail. I chose the the first, last and middle settings to create three thumbnails.
You just pick the one you like best and download it. All of them can be downloaded if you want to see them on your computer instead of thumbnails on a web page. The best setting probably depends on the photo, so try them all. For this one, the 25 setting seemed the best.
The result isn’t quite perfect, but it is far better than I could ever achieve with a photo editor. The results are available in seconds too. There is no mention of limits on the site, but there probably are. The image above is a 3,000 pixel wide image that is about 2.5 MB and it was fine.
PhotoGlory is a Windows app that enables old photos to be repaired, restored and colored. It is not free, but a feature-limited free trial of the software can be downloaded and it gives you a good idea of its capabilities.
Run PhotoGlory and the first thing to do is to open an old black and white photo. It can be colorized with a single mouse click using the button in the panel on the right. There are no settings and there is nothing to do but wait the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to complete the task. The results are excellent and it did a great job with my photos.
PhotoGlory does a lot more than restore color to black and white photos and it provides you with a lot of photo enhancement tools that enable you to tweak the photo afterwards. Click Enhancement in the toolbar and the Main and Colors tabs in the panel on the right have a total of 25 sliders for adjusting a wide range of image attributes.
You can adjust the saturation, vibrance, clarity, temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, reds, oranges, greens and so on. The list is long. In addition to this, on the Sharpness tab you can fix photos with three sharpen sliders and two blur sliders.
The example above is good apart from the girl’s legs, which still appear to be grey. Most of the rest of the photo appears quite natural and those suits are probably quite accurate. More accurate than the previous two colorizers I tried, which made them a bit blue. I like the results.
There are many more tools and photos can be cropped and rotated, you can reduce noise, add vignetting, use a healing brush, clone stand, adjustment brush and much more. It’s a full-featured photo editor. The tools are good and are typical of a photo app of this type. It is not in the same class as Photoshop, but for most people wanting to enhance photos, it is pretty good.
You cannot do much with the free download and many features are locked. However, it is fairly inexpensive and the Standard version, which will colorize B&W photos, repair torn corners, cracks and tears, and correct faded and washed out colors, was $19.25 when I visited the site. Deluxe was $29.40 and Pro was $39.20.