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Colorizing B&W photos with AI (need suggestions)

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  • Colorizing B&W photos with AI (need suggestions)

    One of my main hobbies is genealogy and as a result I have tons of old B&W family photos scanned. I've seen the incredible results where people manually retouched their old photos in Photoshop or Painter to look quite authentic. However, for the same reason I like to automatically apply paint effects to my own modern images (ie, I don't have the patience to paint!), I also don't wish to hand color these hundreds or more old photos, or even use an app that serves as a point in-between (ie, draw some color lines that result in an area color fill, like a masking app). Maybe I'd do this for a select few, but not for folders full.

    A recent genealogy newsletter I subscribe to highlighted a service provided by one of the online genealogy sites (MyHeritage) but I wasn't able to test it due to continual failed uploads (two different computers, two locations), and I don't subscribe to their service so the testing would be limited to a handful. So I did some Googling and found some free online options for now.

    I first discovered the Algorithmia API. It does a nice job but with 2 main disadvantages: The results are small and watermarked.

    Another service,, is the one I am currently enjoying experimenting with. The results are larger and not watermarked, but you have to do the reCAPCHA dance for every upload. At first it's a checkbox, eventually you have to do the puzzles.

    Processing time for both services is minimal.

    There's also something called DeOldify that is more geeky than I wish to deal with right now (maybe I'll go build a GIMP package instead, ha!).

    Anyway, I'm curious to see which AI-type methods some of you use and can recommend.

    In the meantime, here are some of my results using Algorithmia, as well as a comparison between Algorithmia and Colourise. Plus a screenshot from a DeOldify webpage. Photos are from the 1930s and 40s.

    More examples.

    My grandmother and the trees is from the mid-1930s (Colourise).

    The guy in front of the firehouse was taken by me with an Instamatic in 1975 (Algorithmia).

    The 1975 Instamatic park scene (same fire house) is actually my first attempt to do AI colorization, using Algorithmia.

    After I got the result, I placed the colorized version on a layer over the B&W original. Postwork included erasing the green-hued sidewalk back to the original and tinting the original sky area brownish and erasing through the not very-colorized tree branches for a more realistic result. Yes, this took some work; I finished before I realized it ;-)
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Cool, I like your mother and baby pics the best.
    Deoldify (imagecolorization is the website name for the online portal) is the same thing that MyHeritage are using. If you look at the colouring page on myheritage website you will see quite carefully NOT mentioned but visible, the credit for the Deoldify developer. Although at present they are offering free use of the colourizer on MyHeritage due to the covid situation at least for those with a free membership, IF you use it, it adds each picture you upload, to your photo Album which you then have to go and remove unless you want them all there(I have the free membership on there) AND it adds a watermark to every image with myheritage on it bottom right and a little palette Icon bottom left which the deoldify website does not.
    Deoldify's website also doesn't charge anything to use it, doesn't keep your pictures anywhere and doesn't limit the amount you can use it.
    Sometimes the results are a little washed out but if after downloading, you put them through irfanview, you can up the saturation easily.
    The skin tones are good but sometimes miss bits so people might have zombie arms or legs that need a bit of help.

    Colorizephoto dot com is a different way to do it. You open the page and there is a photo on right to use as a reference palette and you upload your own pic left, then use the colours from right hand photo to paint onto left hand one. You can upload your own pic on right so I have an actual palette uploaded for mine. Its a bit awkward but rather like just loading the brush in paint shop and painting . It keeps your last pics for next time but I THINK it is kept in your web cache not their site.

    ColoriseSG seems the least useable of the auto colourers for me at least as the colours leave a lot of work to redo. It was developed to color old singapor photos of mostly peoples faces

    Algorithma sometimes works well and sometimes does nothing very much. Seems to depend on the clarity of photos as much as anything else.
    You can work around the logo in the bottom right as you can with my heritage by adding a strip at the bottom of your pic before you upload it.

    I use Deoldify more than the others for my genealogy pictures and then play with the results in irfanview and photoshop(I only have CS4 but its perfectly good enough for most things).
    Its crazy how much closer it makes the people of the past seem just because they are seen in colours.


    • #3
      pixelpaintbrush, thanks for your reply! I just saw it (I didn't receive an email notification back in April...).

      Since my post above I have done MANY colorizations. The other day I just finished another free few weeks of MyHeritage colorizing AND enhancing, from which combo I got some very excellent results! It is my favorite method to date.

      If you can explain further how to use the instructions at DeOldify's site I would appreciate it (I am geeky but not THAT geeky!). It almost looks like to have to build your own app or something to embed the code.

      I agree with your assessment of the realism of the results and how they bring the past to life! I am doing the same type of project you are plus colorizing my own '70's photos.


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