Historic photos get a color makeover (20 Photos)

18-year-old Artist Mads Madsen has an amazing skill for colorizing old black and white photographs. Even beside their original counterpart the results are impressive, bringing a new dimension of realism to historic images. An American Civil War buff, Madsen’s 450+ portfolio of images can be seen on minus.com.

Madsen says it takes him about 20-30 minutes for a portrait but that the outdoor shots and images with lots of people and background take substantially longer. For a video tutorial of the process involved, you can check him out on YouTube.

Via Twistedsifter

  • http://echogeo.wordpress.com/ echogeo

    Not that this has anything to do with this topic, but I wanted to say Merry Christmas to Taylor Morris & his girlfriend Danielle, while I was thinking about them. Hope all is well.

    • Dan

      Good man

    • TheSaxMan

      They should make an update about them and what happened to the money and how awesome the house must've been

    • LaF310

      Quite possibly the best first comment I've read. Thank you

    • davo

      ..and you wanted a cheap way to get a lot of thumb ups. for shame

      • ovad

        …or a small pay it forward?

    • nbree

      I believe she's his wife now.

  • slany


  • Matt

    Once you go color… You never go back

  • Hrdwood

    #4 Colorized Charles Darwin???? Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle…

    • Verbal_Kint

      It's the other way around…

      • Hrdwood

        True, but you haven't seen how ugly my nephew is…

        • Verbal_Kint


    • RatedR401

      well done!

    • tv_paul

      Maybe they didn't colorize it all, it just evolved that way

      • Hrdwood

        So you're saying it was just naturally selected to survive its inferior monotone ancestry?

        • tv_paul

          Yes, it just developed that way on it's own.

  • Verbal_Kint

    Image > adjustments > hue/saturation

    • ATrapAtNoon

      Yeah…no. 😉

    • ATrapAtNoon

      Try…Duplicate base layer twice, select your bottom layer and apply a heavy Gaussian blur, then select your top layer and Image > Apply Image, "subtract", scale: 2, Offset: 128, source: bottom layer, then set you top layer to "Linear light".

      Then, create a new layer in between the two and start painting in your color. If there was just a filter to do it, a lot more people would be doing it!

      • Verbal_Kint


        • ATrapAtNoon

          Good to see you've found a command worthy of your Photoshop skills 😉

          • Verbal_Kint

            I've used every version of Photoshop since 1.0, so I'm reasonable comfortable with it.

            • ATrapAtNoon

              Then you should know better than to think this is a hue/saturation adjustment. Just because you've used something doesn't mean you know what you're doing…

              ^ That's called "Frequency Separation" – used in the high-end fashion/beauty retouching industry, which I work in…so I'm reasonably comfortable knowing the difference.

              Hell, I've played every Call of Duty game made, but I still get lit up like a noob half the time.

              • Verbal_Kint

                Yeah, everyone gets you're a genius and I'm a clearly a neophyte. You win, well done.

                • ATrapAtNoon

                  *slow clap* Passive aggression for the win!

                  I'm just calling your bluff, man – don't go saying you know what you're doing without being able to back it up. Bustin' chops…

                  • Verbal_Kint

                    It's not about passive aggressive, you're hell bent on flexing your brain for everyone and dismantling a casual comment. With layers, feathered selections, overlays AND hue / saturation, you could get similar effects. I wasn't writing a tutorial.

                    • ATrapAtNoon

                      It's not about flexing my brain…anyone can google how to do it. That's like insisting that you can build a house with a hex wrench. Sure, you can do it…but why go to all that trouble?

                      My comment wasn't to "dismantle a casual comment", but rather to say, "It's a little more complicated than that" for all the thousands of people that think Photoshop is a magic program that you just "click' and things happen. As a Photoshop user yourself, you should be aware of that…

                    • Verbal_Kint

                      Fair enough.

                      / Shakes hands and orders 2 beers.

                    • ATrapAtNoon

                      Make it two apiece, and it's on me.

                    • Verbal_Kint


                    • ATrapAtNoon

                      I fucking love Chivers. KCCO, mate. Goddamn best people there are.

                    • Verbal_Kint

                      Also, i fucked up. I left out “check colorize” play with hue saturation and lightness sliders.

                    • Woop

                      Best thread ive read all week. Although you guys are the intelligent chivers. Jimmy in chiver back there trying to play with his eye of sauron is your regular chiver. Just keeping it real.

            • Slappy

              You must've designed some of those sweet shirts in the contest!

  • habsfanx

    #4 …. by far the most amazing

    • ScruffyNerfherder227

      Is it just me or does it look like he and George Carlin could have been brothers?

      • Woop

        It's just you.

      • InfectedArchitect

        To me he looks like the preacher from Hell on Wheels.

  • http://echogeo.wordpress.com/ echogeo

    Andy Reid look-a-like?

    • Steve

      Nope. zach galifianakis

      • Jason

        President Shinra.

    • Ears

      No way, Grover has a neck.

  • Macro

    The first Einstein is pretty good, but the rest are clearly a little too desaturated as a way of getting around it. Nice work either way.

    • TXTNX

      Nice effort for an amateur but more than half the images are not completed. Backgrounds, floors, scratches, color consistency, shading and lighting, etc. are not always addressed or improved upon and the image loses depth as a result.

      • Jakeman

        Will not bang.

    • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

      He used some of my earlier work, I have learned a lot since then. My most recent one is the one of Joseph Hooker.

  • Kyle429

    #19 This one of Churchill looks real. like it could've been shot in color. That is amazing.

    • gazt

      Sir Winston Churchill

  • Calvin

    I don't believe this. My dad told me that the whole world was black and white back then. It changed to colour in the early 20th century. All the old photos look black and white still since the photos are actually colour photos of black and white images.

    • Emily


    • Hobbes

      Shouldn't you be concentrating on homework instead?

  • Swizzle dick

    #5 that is scary. I won't be sleeping later

  • Cgyachilles

    #4 is it just me or does Charles Darwin look a lot like the preacher from hell on wheels?

    • Pat

      I thought he looks more like Jerry Sandusky before he snuck into the boys locker room.

    • trotterman

      Sweet Jesus. Now I can't unsee it.

    • FoolOfATook

      I was thinking George Carlin, but you're right.

  • Dave

    what a load of crap.

    • trotterman

      Your mom's a load of crap.

      • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen


    • Eder

      Hater's gonna hate.

    • Oltimey

      Those that can do…Those that can't troll.

  • MonkeyMadness

    #9 Pretty much just colored the face and hair. These aren't bad, but I know people who do much more detailed work in coloring. And of course they spend a lot more than 30 minutes doing it too.

    • NYCDXT

      I agree. While these image revisions may deserve some recognition, I think that the photographs become cartoonish and lose their overall appeal. Some appear incomplete.

    • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

      Lol. I like that. Of course it's just colorized face and hair, I just slapped a blue suit on him, gave his hair the grey faded color I estimated it had, and colorized his face in. You're not considering the 11 different colors I used for the face, or the 3 different colors I used for the hair. When you've been practicing for 2 years you get to a point where speed is simply just there, it's not something you try for.

      I can bust a portrait (Something like this) out in about 20-30 minutes, and that is because it's such a simple portrait, there aren't any details to pull out, outside of some grey hairs here and there, and there aren't any differing hues in grass or uniforms amongst a group of soldiers, it's a simple, seated portrait.

      • Not Impressed

        Dude, get off your high horse, you're not THAT good. In this picture you didn't even give him a "blue suit". You just colored the face and hair. Youe skin tones are pasty and eye coloring is amateurish. I've used cheapo programs and got the same results as you have here.
        You talk like you think you're a master at it, well, you're not.

        • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

          I'd love nothing more than to see your results, my good man.

          • Armakane

            Either someones monitor needs calibrating or their rods and cones are a little messed up…looks pretty shades of blue to me.

  • J.D.

    Is there a reason that "Civil War Portrait" is twice not identified as Robert E. Lee?

    • Verbal_Kint

      Because this post was sponsored by the Union.

      • Telephone Man

        Lee was actually recruited by the Union to command the army. He thought it would look bad for him, being a Southerner and all.

        • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

          Not exactly what happened. Winfield Scott was, in 1861, too old and quite simply fat to command an army, he couldn't ride a horse nor inspect anything, so he decided to offer the command to -then- Colonel Robert E. Lee, the 'Finest soldier he had ever seen', in his words. On that same day, Virginia, his home-state, seceded from the Union, and Lee went to Scott's home to discuss it with him, and he decided to turn down the command, and resigned from the United States army, and offered up his services to the Confederate Government.

    • Jeff

      They were unable to identify U. S. Grant as well – he only won the war and was elected President. Easy to forget him…

    • Kodos

      damn yankees

  • savagecabbage

    #19 Legend
    woman in parliament: "Mr. Churchill, i think you're drunk
    Churchill: I may be drunk miss, but in the morning i'll be sober but you'll still be ugly

    • savagecabbage

      Nancy Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”
      Churchill: “If I were your husband I would take it.”

    • Jeff

      the original of this photo was done by Yousuf Karsh: the story goes that Churchill, famous for his cigar smoking, was puffing away on a cigar for this photo shoot when Mr. Karsh walked up and plucked the cigar from his hand and threw it in the garbage. Hence, the scowl that Churchill is giving the camera!

  • Porkins

    Abraham Lincoln had blue eyes!? I did not know that! #8

    • http://www.facebook.com/mads.madsen.7796420 Mads Madsen

      I attempted to make them as gray as humanly possible, but I didn't do well.

  • Oltimey

    He's like a human instagram! Very cool.

    • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

      Lol, thank you Timey. .

    • Bao

      great response. lol

      • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

        I do try, my good man.

  • jasgat66

    #3 Damn good dressers

  • Dave

    #2 and #17 are both pictures of Robert E. Lee

    • Lionel Hutz

      Yea I was gonna say the same thing. Pretty sad that they werent able to name one of the most important people in our history

      • Meh

        Seriously. I got angry about that too.

    • Thrill

      #17 is the General with his sons

      • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

        Son, not plural. The fella on the right is Colonel Walter Taylor, Lee's Aide-de-camp.

    • JackBurton

      These dudes must be dipchits if they don't know what General Lee looks like.

  • J.D.

    That was Taft, not Cleveland.

    • SmokeyTheBear

      I apologize for my brain fart.

  • bryan

    that was taft

  • leafsfan2005

    It's really cool that these are in color now – but the b&w versions are nicer photos.

  • Hooper

    Dude, Einstien is tripping balls, look at his pupils!!

  • Woodbridge

    Anyone else notice that everyone has blue eyes (except Frederick Douglas) I doubt that everyone of these people actually had blue eyes

    • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

      Consider the following: He has taken an excerpt of 20 images out of my nearly 500-already done.

      Out of these images I have done, most of them have been from the American Civil War, and the majority of these Bob featured did infact all have mostly blue eyes. Robert E. Lee, Lee Jr. Douglass & Einstein all had brown eyes.

      Not only that, Woodbridge, the majority of people in this world have a mix of blue and brown eyes, and again, he has only taken a few of my huge amount of images. If you take a look at /r/ColorizedHistory or Zuzahgaming.minus.com you can see it's not as prevalent as you might expect, my friend.

      • Sam C

        hey kid,
        don't take it personal-
        this is the internet.
        not everyone knows everything about everything.
        don't get worked up over the small shit- it will just eat at you.

        • http://ColorizedHistory.com Mads Madsen

          I'm answering his question, Sam. I explained to him why the majority of these images had blue eyes, and I explained to him that they did infact have blue eyes, and I explained where he could see quite the opposite.

          Not everyone knows everything, that's true, but you wouldn't know anything without learning either, would you? 🙂

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