How to Colorize Black and White Photos: The Easy Way

Last Updated: September 29, 2016

I think we all can agree that Black and White photos have their own charm about them, and while some photos are better off staying Black and White, there are some, that would definitely have looked better in color. The most widely used method to colorize Black and White photos has always been Photoshop. It offers a wide variety of tools that can be used to add color to objects in a photograph and to enhance the image, to make it look as if it originally was taken in color. While Photoshop has become a very mainstream tool, it has always been a little tedious to use, involving a lot of man-hours of work. Fortunately, there are some tools (some of them even use deep learning techniques), that allow users to colorize Black and White photos, easily:

1. Colorize-it

Colorize-it is a microservice hosted on Algorithmia, that takes the URL of a B&W photo and colorizes it. The results are not always satisfactory, due to it being an algorithm, but a lot of times, it gets the colors satisfactorily close enough to what one might expect.

Obviously, since the service uses deep learning, it will get better over time, as the developers train it over more and more data sets. Currently, Colorize-it has been trained using around a million images, which results in okay-ish results a lot of the time. Yes, there are flaws in the system; it almost always prefers to color grass green, and messes up the colors of waves in the sea (making them more brown, than blue), but it’s great to see how close an algorithm can get, even in such early stages of development.

All you have to do is upload your Black and White photo to an image hosting service like Imgur or others and paste the URL of your image in Colorize-it. Then, click on “Colorize”, and wait while Colorize-it works its magic. Alternatively, you could use one of the thumbnails from their website for testing purposes. I tried a couple of the pre-available thumbnails, and the results were good for one of them, and rather poor for the other. See for yourself:

colour black and white photos underwhelming response
While the water at the bottom of the image has been colored pretty well, in my opinion, the waves are too brown and look like a sepia filter.
colour black and white photos great coloring
The sky is too faded, but Colorize-it got the color of the cows perfectly. The grass also looks very well colored.

All things said and done, while Colorize-it might not be the best way to colorize images with wildly abstract objects (such as the crashing waves of the sea), it works well on images with distinguishable objects that it can recognise, and it is really amazing to see computer vision taking such giant steps forward. “One small step for colorization, one giant leap for computer vision”.

Check out the tool here

2. ColorizePhoto Converter WebApp

ColorizePhoto’s Converter is a web-app that allows you to manually add color to a Black and White images, by sourcing colors from any colored image that you want.

It is a pretty decent web app, and can be used to quickly color a portrait, or an image that does not have very small objects. By default, the website opens with a portrait of a man, in Black and White, that you can try coloring out on by using another similar image. You can also upload your own Black and White images to work with.

colour black and white photos colorize converter

Check out the tool here.

3. Colorization Requests Subreddit

Reddit plays host to some of the most skilled and knowledgeable people on the internet (depending on where you look). The site has subreddits for almost every topic you will ever need information about; which naturally means, that there is a subreddit for photo colorization requests, as well, dubbed Colorization Requests.

The way this subreddit works, is that you can make a free or a paid request to the community to colorize a Black and White photo. Give it a day or two, and someone or the other will have colorized your image for you. Make sure you read the subreddit’s rules before you post an image request. Rules include not considering “Reddit Gold” as a method of payment for “Paid” colorization. I looked through some of the free requests, and the responses are amazing. So, you should definitely consider posting your Black and White photos to the subreddit for colorization.

Bonus: Photoshop/GIMP

Photoshop is no doubt one of the most powerful photo manipulation tools out there. If you have the time, then Photoshop is your best bet for adding color to Black and White images. Photoshop is a proprietary software, and as powerful as it is, some people might not be able to justify the pricing, or may not want to pay for an image editor. If you are one of those people, check out our article on Photoshop Alternatives.

GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a Photoshop-like software that is free of cost, and open source. Granted, the interface is nowhere near what Photoshop offers, but hey, it’s free. GIMP can also do almost everything that Photoshop can, and do it sufficiently well enough. If you are well versed with using photo editing tools such as Photoshop or GIMP, you can colorize your photos easily. As such, it doesn’t take long to learn the basics of these photo editing software, and if none of the methods above work for you, you can do it yourself in Photoshop.

colour black and white photos GIMP
Here you can see me trying to color (in GIMP) this black and white photo from the 50s

SEE ALSO: How to Remove Background from Images Without Photoshop

Colorize Your Black and White Photos using These Tools

Adding color to Black and White photos is not very difficult, especially now that you’ve read this article about it. Go forth, search through your old photo albums and find some great Black and White photos to color. Show them off to your family members the next time one of them asks you “What are you doing with your life?”. It might not have a very good effect, but hey! How mad can they be when you just colored grandma’s old photograph?

Have you ever colorized a Black and White photo before? How did you do it? Did you undertake it as a personal project, or did you ask someone experienced for help? I’d like to hear your thoughts, views and experiences on this topic, so leave something for me to read, in the comments section below.


Akshay has been a gadget freak since longer than he cares to admit and loves everything to do with technology. When he's not fanboying over the latest and greatest in the tech universe, he watches Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.