We revisit the Chan-Vese model of image segmentation with a focus on the encoding with several integer-valued labeling functions. We relate several representations with varying amount of complexity and demonstrate the connection to recent relaxations for product sets and to dual maxflow-based formulations. For some special cases, it can be shown that it is possible to guarantee binary minimizers. While this is not true in general, we show how to derive a convex approximation of the combinatorial problem for more than 4 phases. We also provide a method to avoid overcounting of boundaries in the original Chan-Vese model without departing from the efficient product-set representation. Finally, we derive an algorithm to solve the associated discretized problem, and demonstrate that it allows to obtain good approximations for the segmentation problem with various number of regions. © 2013 Springer-Verlag.