Worth a Thousand Words

How obsessive artists colorize old photos (Vox)

Photo colorization isn’t just coloring within the lines — it requires meticulous research to make sure that every detail is historically accurate. The color of military uniforms, signs, vehicles, and world fashion spanning decades needs to be accounted for before even opening digital software like Photoshop. That means digging through sources like diaries, government records, old advertisements, and even consulting historical experts to get the colors right.

But even after the arduous research, restoration, and blending of color, the image still isn’t finished. In order to achieve true photorealism, the physics of how light works in the atmosphere needs to be taken into account. Colors look different depending on the lighting conditions when the photo was taken, so artists rely on shadows and the location of light to make an educated guess about the time of day in a black-and-white photo.