There is a certain breed of Photoshop artist with a passion for history and a keen eye for detail who take it upon themselves to breathe new life into important historic photos.
When you have an idea of the level of effort that goes into these colourisations, you can’t help but be impressed. Hours of painstaking effort, tiny mouse strokes and detailed analysis go into every photo.
The result is an impressive and sometimes moving transformation of a photo which might otherwise have spent decades only being seen in black and white.
We’ve hunted down some of the best examples of colourised photos to have graced the internet. Some of the photos here date back well over a Century and give us a new view of a bygone era.
Henry Ford in 1921 with his Model T
“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”
The founder of Ford Motor Company stands in front of his very own Model T, a glint of pride in his eye. The original photo dates back to 1921, but was modernised by the skilful hand of Marina Amaral.
Winston Churchill (1942)
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is set to appear in this list a few times, but this image taken during a visit to Bradford in 1942 is one of our favourites simply because of the attention to detail. The editor has a keen eye – even carefully tweaking the reflections in the car’s window.
Bristol Scout (1916)
A Bristol Scout D is captured on camera in 1916 banking away as it’s piloted by Flight Sub Lieutenant Day RNAS. This single seater biplane was used during the Great War as a fast reconnaissance aircraft as well as a fighter, though it quickly became obsolete as technology progressed.
The original photo has been updated with a colourful haze as a fitting tribute to a brilliant aeroplane and a homage to the pilot who was sadly killed a year after the photo was taken.
Orville Wright flying a glider over the dunes of North Carolina, 1902
The famous Wright brothers are seen in full-colour glory practising for first proper flight above the dunes of Carolina in 1902. This fantastic colourisation breathes new life into an old image from the past.
Queen Victoria and family 1894
“Queen Victoria and her family, including King Edward VII, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Empress Frederick at a wedding in Coburg, Germany, 1894.”
Even members of the Royal family have to pose for photographs. This image from 1894 oozes class and the attention to detail is incredible. These colourised images make the past so much more accessible.
Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali (1964)
Two legends of history from very different worlds often crossed paths and apparently had a profound impact on one another. This brilliant colourisation shows the two great men in all their glory.
Marlon Brando in 1950
The handsome and talented film legend Marlon Brando captured on camera in 1950 and colourised earlier this year. We like the level of detail here – right down to the way the artist accounted for the lighting of the original image.
Danger in the trenches of the Great War
A soldier carefully looks over the parapet of his trench with a mirror attached to a bayonet. Certainly much safer than popping his head up to look for the enemy. Keeping behind cover was an essential part of surviving during those dangerous times. A touch of colour makes the scene seems slightly more dangerous.
Soldiers fighting on the Argonne offensive, 1918
Out from the safety of their trenches, these soldiers are seen amongst the ruined landscape preparing for battle. With a splash of colour, their peril is somehow more real.
Redditor Captain_Toots worked some colourisation magic to bring new life to a photo that’s now over 100 years old. Making it more accessible for a modern generation who will hopefully never seen the tragedy of such a conflict in their lifetime.
French soldiers and Red Cross dogs before departing for the front
At the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, some French soldiers are caught on camera with their Red Cross dogs.
With a dash of colour, a character is added to this photo that wasn’t there before. The soldiers and their four-footed friends can be seen in their full glory. These dogs would prove vital on the front – helping wounded soldiers and those in need.
Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein 1931
“Charlie Chaplin attends the premiere of his newest film City Lights in Los Angeles, accompanied by Albert Einstein. February 2, 1931.”
The famous scientist and actor are seen rubbing shoulders at a film premiere in Los Angeles, in 1931.
Adolf Hitler declaring war on America 1941
Before an admiring crowd of officials, Adolf Hitler can be seen declaring war on America. His speech would make claims that he was honouring the country’s commitments to Japan under the Tripartite act. This photo dates back to 11 December 1941 but has been recently colourised – adding a hue to the history, long since past but never forgotten.
ANZAC AIF. Australian Diggers 1916
Soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force – the main body of the expeditionary force, can be seen resting in the mud banks in 1916. A short respite from the action and danger that awaits them.
Two German soldiers and their donkey 1915
Animals played a big part during the war. Carrying wounded soldiers, munitions and weaponry as well as helping clear the land. Donkeys, mules, dogs and more all helped out during the horrors.
Here, German soldiers can be seen with their donkey, all prepared for the danger with gas masks for each.
Football team of British WWI soldiers wearing gas masks, France, 1916
Soldiers were occasionally granted a respite from the horrors of war. These British infantrymen were captured on camera casually playing a game of football while wearing their gas masks in case the worst should happen.
The construction of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1888
Construction of the wrought iron latticework of the Eiffel Tower originally began in 1887 in preparation for the 1889 World’s Fair. This photograph was snapped mid-construction and you can see from the blurred movement of the workers and people around it how long the exposure took.
Photoshop artist Jordan J. Lloyd (@jordanjlloydhq) took this photo through the colourisation process over a Century later. It may well have been one of the easier edits on our list as he could compare with the modern colours of the tower and a range of other photos from over the decades as well.
German soldier in a dugout
During the Great War, a German soldier is captured on film ready for battle. A fearsome sight, somehow, even more, intimidating in colour.
National Rice Festival, 1938
Some of the photos on our list feature obscure events and locations from history, but the addition of colour adds a new life to otherwise seemingly insignificant moments in time.
Here a lone man cooks at the National Rice Festival 1938. The bright colours and contrast of the adverts surrounding him suddenly paint an entirely new picture.
Princess Elizabeth, 1940
Before she became the reigning Monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth was once a Princess and a teenager. Here, she’s photographed reading a book in a beautiful day-off frocksitting casually in front of a window. The colourisation of this image by Marina Amaral brings an incredible modern reality to an old photo of the Royal. The attention to detail is astounding.
Royal Marine Commandos, 1944
Fully kitted out Commandos disembark from landing craft on the landing beaches of France on D-Day, 1944. The distinctive green berets worn with pride and dedication as the men trudge forward towards the liberation of Europe.
SAS on patrol
The Army and Royal Marine commandos might well have been a bunch of hardened fighters, but the Special Air Service were the best of the best. A force sent behind enemy lines to destroy enemy weaponry and weaken their fighting ability.
This colourised image Ryan Urban shows these hardcore soldiers at their finest.
The crash landing of a Hellcat 1943
Back somewhere in the middle of November 1943, the USS Enterprise (CV-6) was in the midst of providing close air support for the infantry landings on Makin Atoll. During the fierce battles that ensued, this Grumman F5F Hellcat fighter plane was forced to crash land on the deck of the ship.
Luckily the pilot survived the crash despite the apparent fireball surrounding the plane.
Andreas Larsson saw the heroism in this photo and took to updating it for a modern audience. Somehow the introduction of colour into the photo adds a new level of peril that didn’t come across quite as well in the black and white original.
Ronnie, the Bren Gun Gir
Veronica Foster, more often known as “Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl”, was a Canadian was of the most famous fo the Canadian workforce busy producing munitions and matériel for the war effort.
She was known for producing Bren guns on a production line in Toronto, Ontario. Her likeness appeared on numerous propaganda posters at the time.
Sigmund Freud, 1921
Sigmund Freud is credited by many as the father of psychoanalysis and one of the most influential thinkers of the early twentieth Century. He was captured here in a black and white photo in 1921 by Max Halberstadt.
Again, Andreas Larsson colourised another photo to add new life to it. Here we see Freud as the original photographer would have.
Helen Mirren rocking out
Multi-award winning actress and Dame of the British Empire, Helen Mirren, can be seen here rocking out surrounded by musical equipment and amplifiers. Though we don’t know the story behind this photo, we can all certainly agree it is as magnificent as the woman herself.
Redditor Makalon thought so too, when he took to repairing and updating the photograph to return it to its original splendour with a dash of accurate colouring.
Famers drinking beer, 1941
In the heat of the Autumn in 1941, these farmers were captured on camera taking a well-deserved break to down a refreshing beverage.
Tutankhamun’s Funerary Mask, 1925
Tutankhamun Funerary mask is the death mask of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who reigned the lands from 1332 BC. The original photo of the mask was taken in 1925 when Howard Carter originally discovered it in the unearthed tomb.
Just under 100 years later, Jordan J. Lloyd colourised the photo to highlight the solid gold inlay, semi-precious stones and the layers of dust from over 3,000 years of rest in the tomb.
Hoover Dam, 1935
In the midst of construction of the famous Hoover Dam in 1935, these important officials were captured on camera riding one of the penstock pipes. Considering that 112 people died during the construction of the dam, we’re surprised anyone would take such a risk.
The updated photos shows the surprisingly colourful suits sported by the men and really brings the detail of the image to life.
Ellis Island Laplander, 1900
In a more welcoming era when America happily took in immigrants from all over the planet and welcomed them to the New World, Ellis Island saw 12 million people pass through its doors.
During its time, Ellis Island clerk Augustus Sherman captured unofficial portraits of the people passing through from 1892 until 1925. Here, a Laplander is captured in native wear. In the colourised photograph, the wonderful colours of her garment are highlighted in their original glory for all to see.
Cherry Blossoms, 1925
Sometimes colourisations just reveal the original beauty lost in a black and white photograph.
Here, the updated version shows the vibrant pinks of the blossoms and the wonderful contrasting blues of the girl’s dresses.
Country store, 1939
Another seemingly insignificant photo from the early 1920’s. This one shows the front of a local country store. A number of men sit resting in the shade, drinking and chewing the fat.
The front of the shop is littered with adverts which seem almost lost in the black and white photo, but come to life brilliantly when colourisation techniques are applied.
Ice Grotto Antartica, 1911
Over 100 years ago, explorers in the Antartica captured this photo of a large ice grotto with a magnificent view of the horizon. An awe-inspiring view in black and white now expertly transformed into an even more impressive sight with the addition of realistic views and whites.
Now we can witness the same sights that these brave adventurers would have seen without even leaving the house.
From the official archives come this photo captioned “Private Ware Applies Last Second Make-Up to Private Plaudo in England”. Two American paratroopers from the American 101st Airborne Division (AKA the “Screaming Eagles”) apply Native American war paint to each other before their jump into France on D-Day 1944.
Mohawks, Thompson sub-machine guns and a menacing bit of face paint, these troops are a force to be reckoned with. Their true colours are now easy to see in the updated and colourised version created by Jordan J. Lloyd. A magnificent piece of work and a wonderful homage to the heroes of their time.
Jaws of Death, 1944
A grim scene from a different viewpoint. This time, the invasion forces are captured storming the beaches of Normandy with American troops being dropped off by landing craft into a hail of German gunfire.
The peril in this scene is only enhanced by the addition of colourisation which makes the photo more accessible to a modern audience who will never likely see war on that scale again.
Roza Shanina, Russian sniper
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was a Russian sniper during World War II. She was one of many women in the Russian military at the time, but she was also incredibly special. She was a volunteer and an astounding marksman. Roza Shanina had 59 confirmed kills by the end of the war but was tragically killed herself by artillery fire during the East Prussian Offensive in 1945. Her memory is honoured by this brilliant colourisation by Marina Amaral.
A young Winston Churchill, 1899
From a much earlier time, the future wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill is photographed at his writing desk.
A serious look etched across his face seems to imply a knowledge of things to come, but in 1889 it was common practice for people not to smile in photographs that took an age to capture. Much like in painted portraits that came before them.
US President Theodore Roosevelt, 1900
A year later and another important head-of-state is captured on film only to be updated and colourised a Century later. Here, US President Theodore Roosevelt stands in a regal pose for a portrait.
Photoshop artist Will Doran chose not to restore the original photo as others might have done, perhaps to retain its authenticity and majesty.
Grace Kelly, 1950
1950’s American movie star and later Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, was perhaps one of the most well-known actresses of her time.
Her beauty was originally mostly captured in black and white (as were most of the films of the time), but here we can see her in her full glory thanks to the colourisation work of Will Doran.
A more pleasant backdrop, 1946
In the ruins of Warsaw in November 1946, a man uses his own less depressing backdrop for a portrait photograph. His backdrop disguises the bombed-out ruins of the capital City and shows the people trying to carry on with their lives through the hardship and misery.
American soldier and his pet kangaroo, 1942
Forgetting the horrors of war for a brief moment, this American soldier operating at a forward Allied base takes time out to peacefully play with his pet Kangeroo. The addition of colour here helps humanise the moment even more.
The late, great Audrey Hepburn was a British actress, model, dancer, fashion icon and philanthropist. She rose to fame during Hollywood’s golden age, but sadly passed from this world too soon, aged just 63, another in a long line of cancer victims.
Nonetheless, her beauty (aptly captured by this colourised photo) and humane spirit inspired millions across the world.
Susan Peters was another famous American Starlet who made her way to fame and stardom only to have her life tragically cut short. Discovered by Hollywood at the age of just 18, she was in a series of films until she became paralysed during a hunting accident. A downhill struggle ensued before her life ended at just 24 years of age.
Here, Will Doran has immortalised Peters with the colourisation of a magnificent photograph from her prime.
Julie Andrews, 1955
Julie Andrews is another Dame of the British Empire appearing on our historic list of colourised photographs. Andrews is perhaps most well-known for her role as Mary Poppins, but also turned herself into a household name with roles in films like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Sound of Music.
With the colourisation process, Will Doran once again brought new life to an old photograph and perhaps apart from the headwear, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a photo of a young modern woman.
JFK on his wedding day, 1953
In 1953, Senator John F. Kennedy married his sweetheart Jacqueline Bouvier. This wonderful photo was taken on their wedding day and later given the colourisation treatment by Marina Amaral 63 years later.
This is Franz Reichelt, an Austrian-born French tailor. The man is unfortunately famously remembered for his untimely death. He took to the Eiffel Tower to test out a wearable parachute design that unfortunately didn’t turn out well.
The colourised image is a great homage to the fallen man though.
Lady in the water, 1947
In 1947, alone woman wades in the waters of Wachee Springs, Florida. Decades later, colourisation techniques are applied to the original black and white underwater photograph and now this could be a photo from any time.
A peaceful and idyllic scene only enhanced by the addition of various underwater hues. An impressive feat of photo editing if ever we saw one.
Not your average photograph of Marilyn Monroe. A striking icon of a bygone era, brought to life into wonderful technicolour by the expert hand of Will Doran.
Mickey Rooney, 1940
American actor, comedian and radio personality Mickey Rooney was a silent film legend who appeared in over 300 films and was one of the last surviving actors from that era. This original photo of him was snapped in 1945 and colourised byWill Doran.
Pablo Picasso, 1957
Pablo Picasso was highly regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is known the world over for his surrealist painting style. Captured in a black and white photo by Andre Villers in 1957, Picasso is seen posing as Popeye. A photo which perfectly captures the artist’s eccentric style and demeanour.
Will Doran took to colourising this image to highlight Picasso’s environment including the domestic mess and smatterings of his works that surrounded him.
A good day’s fishing, 1894
This might be one of our favourites from the wonderful list of colourised photos that we’ve discovered. Have you ever seen smarter fisherman than this? This photograph was originally taken by W H Jackson in 1894 and with the addition of colour by Paul Edwards really transforms the image.
Suddenly the whole scene is somehow unbelievably daft, yet this is how people dressed in those days and you certainly have to marvel at the number of fishes they caught in that getup.
This photograph originally dates back to 1894 and with the addition of colour it somehow becomes unbelievably daft, yet this is how people dressed in those days and you certainly have to marvel at the number of fishes they caught in that getup.
A dance group in Washington D.C. 1942
Wonderful colouring of an original photo of a group of dancing girls from 1942. This colourisation by Paul Edwards really adds a lot more personality and warmth to the image.
Ian Flemming, 1963
Ian Flemming is perhaps best known for his creation of James Bond, but he was also a journalist and Naval intelligence officer during the Second World War.
Paul Edwards colourised this photo of Flemming that dates back to his heyday in 1968 and typically captures the man in a haze of smoke (he was famously known for smoking up to 70 cigarettes a day).
A man cooling off in a bird bath on a hot day, 1930
In a simpler time, in the depths of the summer of 1930, a man takes a cooling plunge in a bird bath.
A small child with a puppy, 1943
During a decade when the rest of the World is plunged in war, this small boy peacefully points at a puppy in a basket. The expert colourisation by Paul Edwards really brings this image to life.
Albert Einstein and David Rothman, 1939
There’s a great story behind this photo. On the right sits Albert Einstein, the genius of his generation and perhaps one of the greatest minds to ever live. On the left is David Rothman, a local store owner. Einstein met Rothman when trying to purchase some sandals which Rothman misinterpreted as sundials due to the scientist’s thick accent. They quickly became good friends and can be seen here relaxing by the beach.
The colourised version of the image (updated by Paul Edwards) really shows Einstein’s relaxed dress sense and helps humanise and otherwise super-human individual.
Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford, 1914
Another photo from the early 1900’s which highlights some of the great minds and businessmen of that generation.
Audrey Hepburn in her apartment, 1954
Another colourised photo of Audrey Hepburn appears on our list, but this time Dana R Keller has chosen to update an image that captures the acting legend in her own home environment. The newly updated colour image reveals the beauty hidden by the original black and white photograph.
Boys with Easter flowers in New York, 1908
From an acting legend, to a simple shot of some boys with Easter flowers captured in 1908. It’s incredible what a difference a little colour makes to these images that are well over 100 years old.
During the hard times of the 1930’s a line of unemployed men stand neatly dressed outside a building queuing for food to scrape by. Again Dana R Keller brings life to an old dated photograph of a bygone era.
Claude Monet in his study
Famous oil painter Claude Monet is pictured posing by some of his art. The colourisation of this image helps to highlight the magnificent work of the impressionist that was otherwise lost in the original black and white image.
Colorado in the snow, 1949
A wonderfully seasonal photograph from 1949 is brought to life with lighting and colours otherwise missing from the original snap. We can only imagine the level of effort and attention to detail that went into colourising this image.
Coney Island, 1915
This colourised image perfectly captures the wonder of the entertainment that took place on Coney Island in decades gone by. With elephants on parade and people in smart dress of the era soaking it all in.
Ice delivery, 1918
In a simpler time before smart fridges and ice machines, these ladies struggle to deliver large slabs of ice to local stores. Another brilliant colourisation from the turn of the Century that shows a simpler time.
Golden Gate Bridge under construction, 1935
We take the sights of these great monuments and tourists destinations for granted, but how often do we get to see colour images of how it looked when the original construction was taking place.
Dana R Keller wonderfully updated this photo of the Golden Gate bridge first being built.
Harry Houdini performing an escape stunt, 1914
A snap of famous illusionist and stunt performer Harry Houdini captures him about to carry out a death-defying stunt, plunging into icy waters and escaping his chains.
The colourisation process highlights his surroundings and the smart dress of his onlookers.
The end of the Blitz, 1945
A small boy sits solemnly surrounded by the rubble of bombed out buildings during the end of the Blitz. The colourisation neatly captures the devastation and destruction of the era, adding a heartwarming sentiment to a photo we might not otherwise be able to relate to.
Louis Armstrong in New York City, 1946
Louis Armstrong, one of the most influential figures in jazz is captured here on his favourite instrument. Colourisation here really helps show his character.
What list of colourised photos from history would be complete without the magnificent beard of Abraham Lincoln? Perhaps the greatest President of the United States brought back to life in full-colour glory by Andreas Larsson.
Atomic Explosion at Nevada test site
The sheer force and fearful destruction of one of the first atomic bomb tests is enhanced further by the colourisation process. A scary glimpse at the destructive capabilities of man.
Memorial Celebration, 1933
The faces of evil captured on film here as Adolf Hitler and other German officials sit at a memorial ceremony before the escalations of war that followed in later years.
Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan 1862
Abraham Lincoln is caught chatting in a tent with George Mecallen in late October 1862. Incredible to see such old photographs in the same light and colour the original photographer would have.
Mads Madsen clearly put a lot of effort into colourising this poignant photo from an important time in American History.
Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, 1908
Butch Cassidy, the notorious American train and bank robber poses for a portrait photo with his gang shortly before his death in 1908. Mads Madsen’s colourisation of this image highlights perhaps the most well-known villains of history.
Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill gets the colourisation treatment. A wonderful homage to a great man who helped lead the British Nation out of war and back into peacetime.
Sir David Attenborough, 1952
Sir David Attenboroughveteran broadcaster and naturalist is pictured in his youth, full head of red hair, petting a parrot. The wonderful colourisation here brings out the bright colours of the bird and the young Attenborough in his element.
Demonstrating the bulletproof vest
In a brave feat of faith in their product, two men demonstrate the safety of their bulletproof vests. The colourisation here only adds to the drama and risk to life being carried out here.
Client Eastwood working on his car, 1960
American acting legend Clint Eastwood demonstrates that he’s a man of many talents as he’s photographed working on his 1958 Jaguar XK 120.
Here Makalon managed to restore the original colours of the car as well as highlighting Eastwood in his home surroundings.
The discovery of the structure of DNA
This image captures perhaps one of the most significant scientific findings of our age as two scientists discuss the structure of DNA. Colourisation helps to highlight the men and their work in a way that black and white photography could not.
The internal workings of the clock face of Big Ben and its maintenance are captured in an old photograph which has been expertly colourised by Marina Amaral.
Dr Martin Luther King Civil Rights March
Another significant figure from history, Dr Martin Luther King is pictured here on a civil rights march. The colourisation of this photo only adds to the importance of a man who only wanted the best for his race and humankind as a whole.
Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination
The moment John F. Kennedy’s assassin is himself gunned down is captured on camera by complete fluke as Lee Harvey Oswald is lead out of jail by police for transport to County jail.
Yet another famous photograph is updated with colourisation techniques which makes the historically significant moment more accessible for a modern audience.