Redheads, or Gingers as they are ‘affectionately’ nicknamed, often are the butt of many a joke. I mean, they prove singlehandedly that Harry Potter was totally unreal – a ginger? With two friends? Come on now. Okay, only kidding, but really, one thing that redheads often have which make them the objects of my affection to photograph, are freckles. Freckles have the tendency to add a lot of dimension and interest in a portrait, and the fact that they are less common, and most often concealed, make them a great change of pace in a photograph, and particularly in black and white.

But what if you don’t know anyone with freckles, or no one is available in the time frame you want and you want to add that look into your portfolio, or just to have that different look? Photoshop is your best friend in this scenario, and Aaron Nace shows you how to add beautifully natural freckles onto your subject by way of extracting a pattern from a photo of granite, and making a custom brush from it.


For the freckles to appear real, there must be less uniformity, and a degree of randomness. To best accomplish this, starting with an organic pattern/texture is advised, and in this instance, an image of granite proves to work well.

Building The Brush

Once the choice granite image has been selected, the ‘freckles’ must be extracted, and to begin, that requires selecting the range of color of the details we want to become the granite. Then, you would make a new selection, fill it with black, then a new layer and fill that with white to place under the black layer. What this does is leave black freckles on a white background.

Next, you would paint white around the edges of the document to remove any evidence of the shape being quadrilateral, which will make blending appear natural, because if the shape can be seen, then the illusion will be lost.


Once that’s complete, you’ll resize the document and make it into a brush template by selecting Edit>Define Brush Preset. Within the options given, a little tweaking may be necessary to get it just as you want, by changing spacing, and shape, etcetera. Now, if you don’t fancy doing the legwork, the Phlearn Team has provided the very custom brush used in this episode, for you to download.

Brush Application

Once you have your brush created, it’s just a matter of applying it in a manner consistent with the size of your image, and to a degree that you like. Aaron points out that the closer the subject is to camera, the larger the brush will need to be, and creating the effects by using multiple layers will give more depth and have the freckles appear more real. Removing the freckles from any unwanted area is simply a matter of creating a layer mask and painting them away.

[REWIND: How to Shoot For & Create A Panorama In Photoshop]



Watch the video tutorial for an easy to follow along instruction on the process, and share with us your images. As always, if you are a fan of Aaron’s teachings (and who isn’t?), be sure to check back here for updates, and follow along with Aaron on YouTube and Phlearn. You should also consider becoming quickly adept at Photoshop with the Phlearn Photoshop 101 & 201 sets as they are extremely comprehensive, and will have you quickly doing things with Photoshop you may have otherwise thought too complex, or didn’t even know you could do.