Colorizing B&W photos automatically (looking for suggestions)

Oct 5, 2008
LA area
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 ;-)

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Apr 26, 2008
Up in the hills, Gloucestershire, UK
This is just amazing. Thank you so much for doing this. I have done several colorizations using Photoshop and lots of layers, over the years, and each time it took many hours to get perfect.
But I'm disappointed that these are not software one can run oneself. It isn't feasible to upload many large photos one at a time. And one doesn't want any size restriction.
We need Topaz to do this product!
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