History is recorded in black and white, but digital photo processing techniques make it easier to represent the past in color. And with a bit of artificial intelligence or a little Photoshop finesse, you don't have to be Peter Jackson to color your own history again.
Re-coloring an old photo in Photoshop provides the most control over which objects become which color, but apps such as Coloring and Photoshop Elements offer color options when you do not have a few hours or the required skills of Photoshop .
The fast and dirty way to color in a black-and-white photo
Thanks to artificial intelligence, manually coloring a photo is not the only option. As technology improves, more apps, both mobile and desktop, integrate the option to re-color an old photo. Colorize (iOS), Colorize Images (Android) and Photoshop Elements are among the top rated apps to do this.
Colorize is an iOS app that A.I. to re-color photos. After importing photos, an image converts the image to color. The app is free to download and try, but requires a subscription or a fee per image to download the new version of the photo.
Colorize Images is a similar app from another developer for Android users. The download is free, but the app requires a fee per image or subscription to save the re-colored photos.
For the re-coloring of photos on a desktop, Photoshop Elements has added a new re-coloring tool, powered by A.I. that works in a few clicks. In addition to coloring the photo again, Elements offers a handful of different options, so you can choose the result that looks best.
Google Photos has also plagued a coloring tool, but it has not yet been launched outside of beta.  How to color a black and white photo in Adobe Photoshop
Need more control over the process? Re-coloring photos in Photoshop offers more control. Adding color to this wedding photo of my great-grandparents took a few hours, but it was quite fun to do.
1. Make sure the image is in CMYK.
First of all, make sure your photo is in CMYK and not in shades of gray. Go to Image> Mode and check CMYK color.
2. Select an object with one color.
To repaint an old photo, you must make selections, one for each color that you want to add.
Photoshop has a dozen different ways to make a selection – there is no wrong way, but some options will be easier than others. I found the quickest way to make selections to color a photo again, the Select and Mask tool, accessible by going to Select> Select and Mask.
In the Select and Mask window, make your selection with the brush, the first tool in the toolbox on the left. Then refine that selection with the Refine brush or the second brush in that toolbox. Use the plus and minus icons at the top to determine whether you want to add or remove the area from the selection and adjust the brush size as desired. Use the smooth and function sliders on the right to prevent rough edges in the selection.
Click OK when you are satisfied with the selection.
3. Make a solid color adjustment layer.
Still make a solid color adjustment layer with the selection. Go to Layer> New fill layer> Solid color or click in the layer panel on the adjustment layer icon and choose Solid color. Select the desired color for that object and click OK. Your selection should now look like a terribly repainted object that is only one solid color.
Then choose the color mixing mode in the Layers panel – click the drop-down menu that says "normal" by default and choose "color" from the list of options. With the color mode selected, you should see the gradations of the original photo and the selection should no longer look like you just entered it with the Paint Bucket tool.
To get the color exactly right, use the Opacity option in the Layers panel. You can also double-click the solid color box in the adjustment layer in the layer panel to choose a new color for the layer.
Tip: If you have problems getting the color just right, open an inspiration photo with similar colors and use the pipette to get that color. I couldn't quite get the skin tones in the preview image until I tried to take the skin color from another photo.
4. Refine the selection.
Once the object has been recoloured, it is often easier to see errors that you made when making the original selection. Because you use adjustment layers and do not edit the background layer itself, those errors are easy to adjust. Select the adjustment layer and go back to the Select and mask option to make more refinements. You can also click the layer mask in the layer panel (the black and white version of the layer) and use a white brush to add to the selection and a black brush to subtract. For semi-transparent objects, reduce the brush coverage.
5. Repeat steps 2-4 for each color in the photo.
The process must be repeated for each color that you want to add to the photo. If two objects have the same color – such as the leaves on the bouquet and the boutonniere in the sample photo – you can add them to the same selection and the same adjustment layer.
6. Adjust the black tones.
Once again colored, you may need to add some contrast to the image, especially if it is an old photo. Black areas in the photo do not have to be selected and repainted because black lacks color by definition – but if it is an old or scanned photo, the blacks may not look quite right.
Select the background layer and go to Image> Adjustments> Curves. Choose the blacks from the channel drop-down menu to adjust only the blacks. Adjust the curve as appropriate for your image – in our example image we have made the white lighter and the midtones and blacks darker.
Save the image as a JPEG for sharing or printing if you are satisfied with your adjustments. You may also want to save the image as a PSD file in case you want to go back and make further adjustments. A PSD file keeps those adjustment layers intact.