Imerge for converting B/W to colour

Dibz QA TesterPosts: 178 Staff

Afternoon everybody, I hope you are all keeping well and have been having fun with Imerge 2021.1 update.

I thought I would share some work I have been completing while testing out features within the program, plus also editing in my own time outside of work as well.

This mini project was a big learning experience, as I have never colorized a image before. I am efficient at editing the work I shoot, but decided to set myself a challenge to learn new techniques I had always fancied having a go at.

The original B/W image is called - Taxis to Hell and Back ā€“ Into the Jaws of Death and was taken at around 7.40am on 6 June 1944 by Coastguard Chief Photographers Mate Robert F Sargent as the D Day invasion begun.

Although there is not a lot of colour in in the boat or sea due to both being grey, the uniforms took quite a lot of work to get right green and to also retain the details. The sea took a fair while too as I had to get some form of tonal range into the sea to stop it looking Black and White and flat.

The best tool I found for this is the Colorize black and white effect along with the use of its built in colour picker, then having some great reference images to set your colour to speeds up the process further more. Within the Colorize black and white effect you can pick solid colour or gradient colour coupled with a brush mask very helpful in making the process work for me. Then adding a curve for contrast to these colour tones really brings them to life

Its a time consuming task, but the results it can yield are great.

At times I found myself working at 1600% with the down sample value set at good 0.5% as the work was very intricate.

This was the amount of layers I ended up with, each layer represents a different colour that I believe should be in the image.

And then showing how some of the layers look when opened

And then this is how the final image looked when finished.


  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,255 Expert

    @DibsMcCallum Those look incredible and very realistic colors. One would never know they had been BW to start. I can only imagine how much time you spent dialing that in. Would love to see that application applied to Hitfilm and video for taking season 1 of Lost in Space into color!šŸ˜„

  • Dibz
    Dibz QA Tester Posts: 178 Staff

    Thank you, I know exactly what you mean, there is so much historical footage I would love to do this too, I can only image how time consuming that will be with all the masking and colour matching etc etc etc

    I have spent the weekend deciding what image to do next and just started on that one too now, so plenty to be keeping me busy. Hopefully we get some colour in the sky too so I can try out the HDR mode and start editing some of my normal workflow too

  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,403 Power User

    That looks quite good. As @tddavis said, very real.

    Terry, there actually are similar tools for video, but, for the most part you then have to roto for every frame, although this is an area where AI tools are just starting to appear. Vegas Pro has an AI recolor tool. I haven't tried it with high res footage yet, but I did quickly play with a 360p video of a Doctor Who (Hartnell) clip while talking to @NXVisualStudio last week. Clip was the Doctor and a French soldier talking and the AI recolor did properly parse the uniform colors. But, when I gave it a TARDIS control room scene it didn't know what to do with all that white. I imagine if one were to pop in a s1 Lost in Space clip it would do well with the skins and backgrounds, but have no idea if it would pull the proper purple and orange for the costumes.

  • alexfanderston
    alexfanderston Posts: 1 Just Starting Out
    edited April 2021

    Incredible!!Great work!

  • DataDesign
    DataDesign Posts: 684 Enthusiast


    I was inspired by your photo, so I started working on an old photo in B/W. It is time consuming as you said. My question to you is, when I zoom in to get a closer look, I was unable to adjust the position of the photo on the canvas because when I did, the masks I had on the faces remain in the position they were in and the faces move away. So I had the skin tone on the front of the person's shirt. What am I doing wrong. Thanks.

  • Dibz
    Dibz QA Tester Posts: 178 Staff

    @DataDesign I think the issue here is the way you have created the mask. When you create the mask, are you making it within the effect as an effect mask or from the mask drop-down menu and creating a mask?

    As I opted for working with a mask created outside of the effect, as shown in the screenshot.

  • DataDesign
    DataDesign Posts: 684 Enthusiast


    If I understand correctly (don't take any bets on that), I think I am doing what you say. See screenshot below.

  • Dibz
    Dibz QA Tester Posts: 178 Staff

    Yes, that does look like you are using the correct part for the mask to me, although I used a brush mask as I found it easier, I take it that is not in your version?

    I notice you have also adjusted the softness up as well, I found this really helpful too as naturally, the colours do blend into one another and the soft edge is far easier to look at.

  • spyresca
    spyresca Posts: 289 Enthusiast

    This is much quicker with something like Photoshop or Gimp (free). Imerge workflow quite awkward for this type of thing. Using masks isn't nearly as nice as proper layers for the various color wedges.

  • Dibz
    Dibz QA Tester Posts: 178 Staff

    @spyresca I also found it very time consuming using the vector mask method, but using the brush masks added in ver 8 makes it fairly quick.

    All you have to do is...

    Make a new adjustment layer

    Add colourise black and white effect and set the colour.

    Select brush

    Apply brush effect where it is required by in theory just painting over desired areas

    Add contrast curve

    Then repeat that for each colour

    How would you improve this workflow, as we would love to hear others ideas too.

  • DataDesign
    DataDesign Posts: 684 Enthusiast


    No, I have ver. 5 which does not have the brush mask. Sounds like a good feature though. Guess I am stuck with not being able to zoom in on the photo.