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This online tool can transform your black-and-white photos into color images

Baidu uses deep learning AI to add color to history

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Have you ever looked at old photos of your grandparents, or black-and-white pictures in history textbooks, and wondered how they would look in color? This new online tool is the answer.
Created by Baidu to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Chinese economic reform, the site turns any black-and-white images into color photos.

Here's a picture of the Kennedy family dogs Charlie and Pushinka at the White House in 1961. I hope that wasn’t blood under Charlie’s collar?

(Picture: National Archives)

This is President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in 1964. The skin tones appear to be accurate. Can’t say the same for wall color.

(Picture: National Archives)

The smog must have been pretty bad on this day in 1959, when Walt Disney sends President Richard Nixon on a Monorail ride at Disneyland: 

(Picture: National Archives)

This is President Harry Truman celebrating Christmas in 1958 with... a goth Santa Claus? Also, that psychedelic wallpaper is pretty rad.

(Picture: National Archives)

As far as I know, Albert Einstein didn’t have pink hair...

As you can clearly see, the color doesn’t always look right in the resulting images. (Or hey, maybe Santa Claus was really wearing black that day, who knows.)

From my brief experiment, this tool works better with photos that have simpler backgrounds and more prominent faces. There's also a significant amount of blur on the new photos. We're not sure whether this is a limitation of Baidu's coloring system, or whether the tool just exports low-res images.

Baidu says the system honed its skills through deep learning, where an AI analyzes more than 10,000 images to memorize the color distribution of different objects. The entire process took only a month.
It’s not the first attempt to use technology to add color to black-and-white photos. Two years ago, researchers at Japan’s Waseda University created an AI tool that automatically colors greyscale images. Brazilian artist Marina Amaral uses Photoshop to digitally paint color onto historic photos. You can check out her stunning work here.

To try out Baidu’s tool yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Tap 跳过 (which means skip) on the top left
  3. Tap the camera logo to upload a black-and-white photo
  4. Check the box next to 隐私条款 to certify you’ve read the privacy policy. Baidu states that your photo won’t be stored in its servers or be used for other purposes.
  5. Tap 给照片上色 on the lower left

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