Brazilian artist Marina Amaral has an amazing talent for transforming black-and-white photos into colour.

Driven by a fascination for history, she is lovingly faithful to the image’s context. It’s a painstaking process, she tells Business Insider, involving intense research and often months of Photoshop work.

The 21-year-old is drawn to emotive pictures of conflict, but she also breathes life into iconic figures from history in a way you have never seen before. Scroll on to see some Amaral’s most arresting and moving work.


“I’ve always been fascinated by history since I was a kid,” artist Marina Amaral told Business Insider. She stumbled upon some colourised historical images on an internet forum and “felt instantly tempted to give it a go.” Amaral has now built a career out of her hobby.

Foto: Abraham Lincoln. source Marina Amaral

She started with a portrait of an American Civil War soldier. Her first effort was “horrendous,” Amaral says, but she was “really proud” when it was finished. “I am a very curious and creative person,” she explains.

Foto: Body of a Confederate soldier in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. source Marina Amaral

Amaral colours every individual detail by hand on Photoshop. She says the hundreds of layers of colour come together to create the “atmosphere that I want in each image.”

Foto: Winston Churchill. source Marina Amaral

“Research is essential,” she adds. “I never start a job without having gathered as much information as possible, because that’s what makes the colours historically accurate.”

Foto: Martin Luther King Jr. source Marina Amaral

Photos can take anything from 40 minutes to a number of months to complete. “Each photo has a different level of complexity and details, and that’s what will determine how long the process will take,” she says.

Foto: A French boy introduces himself to Indian soldiers, who were in Marseille to help allied forces in World War I in 1914. source Marina Amaral

Amaral is particularly drawn to images of conflict. Some of her most arresting work captures soldiers on the frontline of various wars. From British soldiers in World War I trenches …

Foto: source Marina Amaral

…to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944…

Foto: source Marina Amaral

…to medics helping wounded US soldiers on Omaha beach in 1944…

Foto: source Marina Amaral

…and French soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

Amaral thinks this is the most powerful image she has created. It features 14-year-old Polish girl Czeslawa Kwoka, who was sent to Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz with her mother in 1942. Both died within three months.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

Amaral explains: “Every day I get messages from people saying that they were able to truly understand the Holocaust only after seeing this image in colour. That’s always been my goal, so I feel really proud of it.”


But it’s not all war and atrocity. Amaral also likes breathing new life into some of most famous faces in human history. Here’s a youthful John F. Kennedy in 1957.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

And this is Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

Great thinkers of our time: Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Alexander Graham Bell.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

And a relaxed Thomas Edison, often described as America’s greatest inventor.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

Hollywood heroes have also got the Amaral treatment. She has returned to James Dean more than once, while a young Grace Kelly and Debbie Reynolds look vibrant in colour.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

From big screen royalty to a real Queen: This is a 14-year-old Queen Elizabeth II.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

Amaral also spotlights everyday people, like this family gathered around a water fountain in Central Park, New York.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

Private commissions are a big part of her work and one was particularly memorable.

“I received a video showing a woman’s reaction when receiving a photo of her parents that I restored. It was a Christmas gift that her son gave to her. She cried after seeing the photo, and I cried watching the video,” the artist says.

“It’s a really special feeling to know that I can give so much joy to people through my work – especially when I work with family photos because I understand the value that each picture has for them.”


Amaral is also commissioned by publishers, magazines, TV stations, and museums. “Each segment is different and wants different types of photos, so it’s really fun to work with people from all of these areas,” she says.

Foto: New York banana docks, sometime between 1890 and 1910. source Marina Amaral

And this? This is Amaral herself. She tells BI her dream project would be to restore images of Ancient Egypt — but that might just be the one Photoshop job that proves too challenging for the talented Brazilian.

Foto: source Marina Amaral

To see more of Amaral’s work, visit marinamaral.com