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How I paint horses

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 4:47 pm
by flick40
Since I requested this I guess I'll start. Many of you may already do this (and probably better than me) but this is the easiest way to paint horses that I have found. I learned it long ago and all my 15mm and 28mm horse I've painted are done this way. It's not speedy but you can do many in short order and have them ready as you do the horsemen.

Take your standard horse figures, prime them in white.

Paint the horses in orange and yellow acrylics.

(Important) Let them dry completely.

Once dry paint the horses using burnt umber or raw sienna oil paints. The oils will stain the acrylic paint, but they have to be dry. I do them in groups of 12 or so and by the time I finish painting the 12th I can start the next step.

Use an old clean cotton t-shirt cut into 2" strips and fold them so you have about a 2" square to work with.

Gently wipe the excess oil paint from the horses. Dont rub too hard or you will rub to the - metal. The darker oils will remain in the recesses and provide a natual shading. Remove as much as you want to get your desired effect.

Let them dry completely. At least 24-48 hours.

Once dry you can then paint the reins, add socks, face markings etc.

For black horse prime in black, undercoat in darker blue acrylic and then cover in black oils.

Dapples, add white spots as needed before the oils step.

Yellow undercoat on the left and orange on the right.

Thats my way, whats yours?


Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:04 am
by Bluebear
Not so much a comment on how to paint horses but rather a comment on the philosophy of painting cavalry figures.

For me, I want the focus on the RIDER, not the horse. The rider is what we should be paying attention . . . and the horse should not distract us from the rider. Note that this philosophy holds for both "fine painting" and the "quick and simple" type of horse painting that I do.

I paint my horses very very simply with acrylic paints. Black prime, white "damp brush", various "horse color" dry brushes (one per horse, use different ones for different horses), then brown watered-down ink.

The above is very quick (minus paint drying time), I've been timed at doing 48 horses and 6 camels from prime to done (actual brush time) in just under an hour. The horses don't look great up close, but there is enough variation/shading that your eye easily accepts them (especially in groups at wargaming distances) and the focus goes to the rider . . . as intended.

-- Jeff

Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:12 pm
by quindia
For me it's important to keep a consistent look across my collection - I want my horses to look the same as my infantry. I paint the horses in the same three layer process I use for the rest of my army. After painting lace and buttons and the like, painting horses is a breeze. I choose a dark color for my base and paint my mid tone on the raised areas (nicely sculpted on the Warfare models and easy to pick out). My third and final layer is painted in as small highlights so the main color of the horse remains the mid tone.


Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:16 pm
by Adam Hayes
I use a variant of the rubbed off oil paints method, precoisely because I like to have a different "texture" to my horses than the acrylics with highlights of the riders. Horses for courses, as it were...

Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:36 pm
by hattie
Its been interesting to see how the oil wipe method has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance recently. I give the credit to Old Dawg (sp?) whose work features regularly on this and the Steve Dean site. His outstanding collection of models has shown it off to great effect. I worry for him in that he cannot have time to sleep given the consistency of his work but there we are.

I'm with Quindia - I think the horse can be a bit of a scene setter for the rider. If I could start again I would use oil wiping for all of my stuff as painting horses in the three tone method is something that I find such a chore even though the finsihed product can be excellent - in my cases however they tend to look a little stripey.

Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:13 am
by lenin
Please keep the tips coming as painting horses is a particular hate of mine. Which is a pain as I tend to favour eras with loads of cavalry.

Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:09 pm
by 18th Century Guy
I've used the oil wipe method for a number of years now and I really like the results as it gives the horse a sheen that I feel is more natural. But I have started to use another method with oils that I've picked up from a historical miniatures club I joined where they focus on 54mm sized figures and bigger.

They put the acrylic on and then, after the acrylic is dry, apply very thin layers of the oil paints, mixing and match while still w e t. (interesting that the word filter won't let the word for dampness be used) At some point you may need to wait for it to dry so you can apply other color layers but if you do enough horses at once then the wait is worth it. Using this method they can achieve the shadows, highlights and intensities of color they want. It is a very interesting style to try and I recommend it to others who've used the oil wipe method.

If you want to see their results then I recommend attending any of the shows that these groups have. You'll see what I'm talking about and the results they get are incredible. And as a cheap plug, if you're in the Atlanta area from Feb 15th - 17th you can attend the Atlanta Military Figure Society's show .

Re: How I paint horses

Posted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:15 pm
by 747jeremy
I also used the oil method for a number of years but recently have been experimenting with using the same prep work but then instead of using the oil to use the army painter ink (Strong shade and in the bottle not the tin) the same way as you would oil. Certainly a lot less messy and obviously dries a lot quicker. For an example of how it looks check the commissions page on