Monday, September 25, 2006

Painting Horses --

Stokes Schwartz hates painting horses (he sent a comment to my last post saying so). He asked how I paint mine.

Sorry to tell you this, Stokes, but I actually spend less than two minutes of "brush time" per horse.

What? How is that possible?

First, you need to accept the concept that the critical visual focus of a mounted figure should be the rider. As long as the horse looks "reasonable" (and not too flashy), what viewers focus on is the rider -- note the first photo.

(Note -- this in no way belittles or criticizes those who paint beautiful horses -- it just represents a different philosophy.)

So, for those who agree with my philosophy, this is how I paint horses:

  1. I "black prime" the figures -- generally this takes a number of light coats from various different directions -- including from below to get the horses' bellies.
  2. After the priming coat is completely dry, with a large brush I do a very quick white "damp brush". At this point, the figure should still have a lot of black on it, particularly in recessed areas.
  3. After the white damp brush has dried, again with a fairly large brush, I do another quick damp brush with a "horse color" -- yellows, tans, browns, red-browns, etc. -- after this step, the horse should have perhaps two thirds the horse color, and more or less even amounts of black and white showing through. Also, please note that each horse will look slightly different at this point, since each of the "damp brush" steps will have left paint in slightly different places.
  4. Again, after the last step is dry, the final step is to use a (somewhat diluted) ink. I use a fairly dark brown ink (not black), I dilute it (with water) so that it will allow more color through and flow easily. This tones down some of the "brighter" horse colors (such as yellows or red leathers, etc.) . Since I generally have about three horses on a craft stick, I start this step with the horses upside down (belly up). I apply the diluted ink with again with largish brush (but not the same one I use for the damp brushing). This is a pretty "wet" process, so I'm careful to be wearing clothes that my wife doesn't matter getting "spattered" (I use an old BarBQ apron). So I slosh this over the horse from below, then turn it over and do the same from above. This is somewhat scary because the figure now looks like it is all the ink color.
  5. Don't panic. You can use the "inking brush" to somewhat "wipe down" the excess diluted ink where it is particularly heavy . . . but gravity and evaporation will do your work for you. Just let them dry.
But what about reins and stockings and stars?

I ignore them. Again, my philosophy is that the focus should be on the RIDER, not the horse. I do paint the horse blanket, but that's about it.

Even although the flash has "washed out" the colors, if you look at the picture to the left, you can see how each horse has slightly different shading; and how the reins and halter are outlined by the ink -- it's enough that from a distance you don't notice that they aren't painted -- your focus is on the rider.

Now, if you look at the final photo (from a game), you will notice that the Cossacks on the left have different horse colors; while the Swedes entering on the right have a uniform horse color.

(You may want to "click" on the photo to bring up a larger version of it).

And, sure, the Cossaks have irregular "uniform colors" as well as horse colors; but notice how the slight variations make a difference.

Now, I do not suggest that this is the only way to paint horses, but it is effective for me. It is certainly quick (as I say, I've been timed doing a unit of horses and the brush time was not much over a minute per horse -- drying time took longer of course).

Stokes, give this a try with a few horses and see what you think . . . if you don't like it, it is certainly easy to strip or paint over them.

-- Jeff


Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...


A very interesting description of the painting process you use! Thank you. I'll give it a go when I paint up my first "imaginary" unit of dragoons for the Grand Duchy of Stollen -- probably during the Christmas break from school.

Oh, and before I forget, thank you for the time you took to describe how to add links to one's blog. I really appreciate it. Haven't tried your instructions yet, but will sit down and give that a go this coming weekend -- as a way to forget the next pile of student essays for a while :-(

Best Regards,

Stokes Schwartz

Bluebear Jeff said...


You're quite welcome. One of the aspects of our hobby that appeals to me most is the helpful and friendly nature of the vast majority of gamers.

Probably the thing I most enjoy is the camaraderie, the good fellowship of my fellow players. It's too bad that we're a few thousand miles apart. It would be nice to game with you.

-- Jeff

El Grego said...

Speaking of camaraderie, thanks Jeff for posting a link to my blog, and for visiting and leaving commentary!