ArtIamA professional digital colorist. I restore and colorize black and white photographs, working with several museums, TV stations, publishers, and institutions from all over the world. AMA!
Jun 24th 2017 by marinamaral • 41 Questions • 8150 Points
My short bio: Hi guys! People have been requesting me to do this for quite some time now, so I decided to give it a try! My name is Marina Amaral, I'm 22 and I live in Brazil. One day I decided to combine my fascination with history and skill using Photoshop by restoring and putting color into photos that were originally black and white, allowing people to see history from a new and colorful perspective. Each photo is made to be realistic by recognizing the value behind each one of them, respecting and preserving their stories, paying attention to the finer details and maintaining their original essence. Every completed work has gone through long and in-depth research and is supported by the opinions of experts in each particular area if necessary, to faithfully reproduce the original colors and atmosphere. My work ranges from simple portraits to complex and detailed images, taken from various historical periods covering a wide range of topics.
I've been doing this professionally for two years. I work with several publishers, magazines, TV stations, production companies, museums and institutions from different parts of the world. WIRED magazine has made an incredible story on me and my work, which you can read here.
I'm working on several exciting personal projects at the moment and I'll be glad to share some of my thoughts with you!
EDIT: You can commission me to colorize family photos as well: http://www.marinamaral.com/contact/
Edit 2: I've been answering the questions for 7 hours and will continue doing it tomorrow morning. Really impressed by your support and interest. Thank you! x
How do you know what color to use when colorizing a photo?
The colors are almost always based on historical research. You can find visual descriptions, drawings and paintings from that era that will give you a pretty good idea of the colors. But sometimes a lot of guesswork is necessary to colorize random objects, such as regular clothing, hats, shoes, a chair, etc.
Really enjoy your work. You cover a great range of topics.
Which historical topics do you enjoy the most?
Are requests for prints available? e.g. Can we get your Muir/Roosevelt?
I don't know what happened, but when I saved this picture it generated such a small file, so I don't have it in high resolution anymore. I'll need to re-colorize it to be able to make it available. Might do this someday! People really like this one.
How often are you tempted to just color everything in the weirdest way possible?
This giraffe? It's pink now.
Hahaha I've never done this before, but I should definitely try.
I absolutely love your work.
How long does each image take to colourise?
Do you follow a prescribed process? What is it?
Do you plan on making tutorials on YouTube? I would absolutely love that. I have family photos of my mum, passed away, that I would love to colourise.
Do you recommend any particular technology? Mouse/tablet/software?
Thank you! The time really depends on the complexity of the photo. So while a simple portrait can take me 40 minutes, a more complex shot can take me several days of work. I'm such a perfectionist, so I never stop adjusting things until my eyes are pleased with the result.
The process is quite simple, but it's time-consuming if you aim to achieve a realistic result. I don't use any special techniques.
I don't plan on making tutorials on Youtube because I'm planning something much bigger than that! ;) Can't give you too many details right now, but I promise I'm trying to get in terms with the right people to make it happen soon.
Photoshop is the way to go, at least for me, but I've never tried a different software.
Can people send you some family photos and pay for you to colorize them?
Your going to assist in the process of bringing Star Trek Voyager to High Definition? THANK YOU SO MUCH! I LOVE YOU!
I WISH I COULD
I love your work and would love to see whatever plan you have in the future!! This is so cool
Thank you so much!
Sorry, just a bored EFL teacher here: you don't need an article ('the') with WW1 and 2. I really cant fault your English apart from this so maybe it's petty, but school ended a week ago and I'm a bit lost 🤐
Thanks so much for the post btw, I'm actually thinking of commissioning you for a birthday I've got coming up :)
I wish I could have you whispering in my ears and correcting me every time I say something wrong.
Do you purposely choose a limited color palette and pale colors to attempt to replicate the "hand tinted" look, or are those the only colors that work properly when overlaid on the grayscale original?
Realism is the ultimate goal, so I never have this hand tinted look in mind when I'm working. The quality of the colorization is very related to the quality of the original photograph though. I actually prefer to work with saturated colors.
That's a tough one, but I think it is that one of the little girl that was murdered in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. I posted this picture during the Holocaust Remembrance Day and the way it was widely shared and the way people received it / reacted to it was pretty impressive. She has blood in her mouth, she is crying, she knows what will happen to her. My goal was to add a sense of humanity to the picture, which in my opinion was lost in the black and white version. When I completed the work and looked at her face for the first time, it was a shock. I realized she was a human being just like me. She had dreams, fears, friends, family, ambitions and a life ahead. But she lost it all.
It's pretty fascinating. Can you ever be 100% sure you got the right colors or...in other words, how much is guesswork?
Are most colorists women? Colorblindness is more common in men (I'm mildly colorblind) and I've heard that women see subtle variation of color more accurately.
Thank you. Yes, in the case of military uniforms, for example, you have plenty of material (drawings, paintings, visual descriptions, etc) to give you this information. It's the same when it comes to famous landscapes, scenarios, buildings, signs, labels, historic objects... Guesswork comes when you need to colorize most usual/random things, such as dresses, hats, shoes, etc.
Where and how did you learn these techniques?
I learned by practicing a lot. I've always enjoyed using Photoshop in my free time since I was 12 or something, so when I started I had a pretty good idea of the possibilities offered by the software, but I had no idea of how to achieve a realistic result. So I started gathering a lot of information from different areas of expertise, such as physics, photography, traditional painting, etc, and I never stopped practicing. Not even a day goes by without me opening Photoshop to colorize at least a flower. So my suggestion is to practice a lot, identify your weaknesses, observe modern day photographs and never be satisfied with the quality of the work you're currently producing.
Have you seen the colorize bot? How long til it puts you out of a job?
This is gonna take a while. I'm in contact with a group of scientists that are trying to develop this thing. Their goal is not to overpass what we are manually doing, but to be an additional help to cut off the time that we need to spend working on the images. Honestly I don't think this will happen anytime soon though.
Have you ever just finished up a long session of colorizing a photo when a historian looks it over and says you used to wrong color?
Yes, and I like when it happens because it's better to spend a few minutes adjusting the colors than to publish an image where I don't have the colors right.
Do you ever have a downtrend? I've been coloring for a while but I've had a trend downward in the quality of my work and haven't posted anything . I can't really figure out what I'm doing wrong. If you do go through something like this what do you do to get back on your horse?
Very often. I try to do something else and get back to it later. Or I watch a documentary to be inspired again!
Do you have talent with drawing in general? Or do consider it a different skill set?
Definitely no! A 3-year-old kid draws better than I do.
I din't know you were only 22 years old!
When do you started colorizing photos?
I'll be 23 in September! I started in 2015 in the most random way possible. I was looking at some website and stumbled upon a collection of photos from the WWII in color. I decided that I wanted to try to reproduce the technique and haven't stopped since then.
This may be a dumb question, but how do know what the colors should be? Do you guess? Is there a methodology you use? Thanks!
This is the kind of information that I can only find if I dig into historical documents. There is no software or tool that will automatically tell you the colors. I always try to be as accurate as possible, but since I'm not an expert, I'm very open to commit mistakes. I try to reduce this risk by partnering with experts and historians.
In most cases it works very well! I'd say 7.
What do you think of colorizing movie classics like Citizen Kane?
I think colorization will always be welcome, as long as it is done with responsibility for maintaining the essence of the original material. I will never use pink to colorize a military uniform, for example, nor remove an object from the photo only because I think it is distracting. I always have in mind that I'm dealing with historical documents.
I follow you on social media and your posts on reddit, it's always great to see your work.
You mentionned that you started to colorize picture since 2015 only. What career did you envision before being succesfull as a colorist ?
Your work seems to be very appreciated and recognized, and it's true that most colorized pictures I've seen are underwelming. What's your secret for having such skills so young ? If it's practise and practise only, do you have some of your early days work that you could show us ?
I'm also a big fan of WWI/WWII, and the history of totalitarism in general, I've watched many documentaries about it. One in particular, Apocalypse ( french documentary on WWI ) got my attention. It's got colorized archived movies from 1914-1918, but the quality is very poor. Is colorizing videos that much harder ? Is it done picture after picture, or can you use tracking algorythms to make it easier ?
- I was lost. I have a weird past and I've made some "decisions" that kind of throw me into a spiral where I had no perspectives at all. I have always suffered from depression, anxiety and other similar issues. My grandfather died in 2008 and that was kind of the downfall, which made me drop out of school before I even completed high school. That may sound normal to an American (where home education is legal/normal), but that certainly made me an alien here in Brazil. I spent 6 years at home, "locked" in my room. I had/have no friends. Today I strongly believe that nothing happens by accident, because it was during this period that I began to unconsciously build the basis that allowed me to become what I am today. I began studying English, what today is something essential to me, and I spent hours watching Photoshop tutorials on youtube. I went to college in 2015 to study International Relations but I was not passionate about it. Thankfully the colorization thing came into my life, otherwise, I have no idea what I would be doing today.
This was one of the first ones I completed. Awful.
I think it is much harder, yes!