I've heard both phrases used but would love to learn what the difference is and if one is more proper than the other.
The green paint really made it come [to life/alive].
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In most contexts they're equivalent and interchangeable. But imho come alive is somewhat more likely to be used figuratively, and come to life is more likely to be a literal usage. Thus...
That's 116+93=209 hits in Google Books for the two usages in the first example, and 4+77=81 hits for those in what I consider to be the "less idiomatic" second example.