What colour is a horse? It's one of those questions which can be answered by every schoolchild quite easily: usually brown, possibly white or black. This answer is along the same lines as "trees have brown trunks and green leaves", or "rivers are blue": it's much too simplistic (or even just plain wrong).
As wargamers, unless we're concentrating solely on mid-20th century or later, we often need model horses. In this article I'll present a recipe for painting the most common horse colours in as simple a manner as possible.
Note that I've used 28mm horses to illustrate my technique, but it can be used equally for smaller models, especially if some of the steps are omitted. For example, I don't bother to paint hooves on a 6mm horse!
There are many serious articles about horse colours available on the Internet such as these, for starters:
- Equine coat color (Wikipedia)
- Horse Colours and Patterns (Equine World UK)
However, what it all boils down to is that unless you are modelling an unusual population of horses, then there are 2 very common patterns: chestnut and bay. These are very similar to each other in technique, so both are covered by this article. However, if you want blacks, whites (actually called "greys" by horse enthusiasts), Palominos or anything else then you'll need to look elsewhere.
DISCLAIMER: I'm not an expert on horse markings, but I've read a fair few articles on painting them over the years. This is my simplified scheme for painting model horses to a standard that looks reasonably convincing to those of us who don't have a great deal of contact with the real, live animals. It works for me, though if I've made any gross mistakes then please feel free to point them out!
Chestnuts and Bays: Base Colour
|Step 1: paint most/all of the horse (both bays and chestnuts) in some shade of brown.|
Chestnut and bay horses come in quite a variety of shades of browns: yellowish, reddish, pale and dark. Possibly I've got too much of a range of base colours here (I suspect that within a single herd there would be more animals in the middle range of colours; few would have completely different shades?)
|Step 2: Paint the points of the bays (mane, tail, legs up to the knee) in black|
In my simple recipe, the only difference between a bay and a chestnut is this step. The bays have their legs, mane and tail painted black. The chestnuts just skip this step.
|Step 3: drybrush the mane and tail with a paler colour|
Some chestnuts (?) have manes and tails that are darker than their coats, but in this production line method I always use a paler colour. If you're feeling really fancy then you could use 2 or 3 successively lighter shades for drybrushing; I only used one in this example.
|Step 4: paint 1, 2 or 3 white socks on each horse|
Almost all horses (?) have white socks on some, but not all of their legs. As with human socks, these can be just around the ankle, almost up to the knee or pretty much anywhere in between. I don't think that I'd mix different lengths on the same creature, though.
|Step 5: paint the hooves in grey. I use a "lichen grey" that is slightly green-tinged.|
Technically, a horse's hoof colour can vary depending on whether the leg is pale or dark. However I don't think that most gamers would notice such a detail. For simplicity, I just use a single colour for all hooves.
|Step 6: paint muzzles with either (Caucasian) flesh or dark grey/black|
Most/all horses have some different colouration around the muzzle. This can be either a pinkish flesh or a black and it can cover anything from just the tip of the nose & lips to half the face or more.
|Step 7: paint a white flash, blaze or star on the forehead|
As with the socks, most/all horses have a white mark on the forehead. This can be anything from a small spot to a considerable vertical stripe or mask and there is a large set of technical terms for the various shapes and sizes of such markings. For simplicity, I'll just say that I put a white "splodge" on my horses' heads.
|Step 8: paint the eyes and nostrils with black|
The last detail that I add is to spot the eyes and nostrils with black paint. Of course, if the horse has its mouth open then the mouth and teeth will have to be painted as well, but that's very simple. Also, if this is a draft or cavalry horse then it probably has some form of harness; that'll need to be painted at this stage too. I'll leave it to your imagination, then...
|Finally, use a black wash to bring out the contours|
Lastly, I paint the model all over with a thin, black wash. This will darken the colours slightly, but more importantly it adds definition to muscles, hair and other textures.
|Based and ready for action! Note that there are a couple of "paint" horses in with the bays and chestnuts|
The painted horses can then be based as you see fit. This lot are a herd that I may use in Old West games, either in a corral or as wild animals. They could be the target for rustlers, a dangerous stampede or just movable cover for gunmen!
A terrific posting Hugh and one I will undoubtedly be returning to once I start painting up some cavalry units. Great stuff and very useful indeed :-)ReplyDelete
Thanks, I'm pleased that you found this useful :-) .Delete
I always struggle with horses for some reason, cheers budReplyDelete
Well, if you follow my recipe then you might find it quite easy. At least, that's what I would hope...Delete
There's a brilliant Blog here http://troubleatthemill.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/horse-of-different-colour.htmlReplyDelete
It talks about horse colours in terms of genetics.
It makes the case that 25% of your Brown/Black horses will be Chestnuts, their ee gene prevents their producing black pigment. (Presumably these are the gingers of the equine world).
Of the remaining 75% have an E gene and produce black.
Those with the aa combination are black all over, while the aA, AA or Aa have the black restricted to make tail and points (Bays).
A sample of 16 would typically contain 4 Chestnuts, 3 blacks and 9 Bays.
I recommmend the blog, and going to the trouble of digging out the various other horse colour and genetics articles.
There's sufficient detail there to make your head explode.
There are many articles on the web which detail how to paint horses (and they're usually rather more complex than my method, I think). However, this is the first article which talks about the *distribution* of colours within a horse population. That's something which I've wondered about for years; thanks, Steve!Delete
I realised that the whole genetic approach to distribution bypasses any breed-specific bias for colour. This is often found in specific thoroughbreds (eg the Lipizzaner) or primitive breeds (Steppe horses).Delete
However the 4 / 3/ 9 ought to hold for groups of "Mostly bay" horses.
For the record, I throw in about 10% "Other" colours: Greys, Duns, Palomino and Mixed Colours. 10% seems quite high, but I assume that my cavalry officers rescued the pretty horses from the slow death of artillery and supply chain duties.
A very informative post. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
I imagine that old hands such as yourself know this stuff already, but thanks for your interest nevertheless :-) .Delete
I have few dozens of horses to paint for my KoW armies and never really into it. You gave me good inspiration and a great tutorial to make them happen.
I'll hope to see some results from you soon, then :-) .Delete
Great article Hugh. I have quite a few horses to paint for my Ancient Britons and not yet found the confidence to start. Hopefully soon now!ReplyDelete
As I said to Cedric above, I'll expect to see you paint at least a few test models in the near future :-) .Delete
A lovely post and a very effective style - you make it look so easy.ReplyDelete
Well it *is* easy, you know. Horse models typically have a lot less detail than people or vehicles and they're bigger as well [so no really small brushes are needed :-) ].Delete
Good tutorial C6, covering all the essentials needed to paint a quick and realistic model.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Joe. I don't know if it'll be useful to you, but I'm glad that you liked it anyway.Delete
As my sister has had a horse, or in later years horses, I have grown up around them. And have had it drummed into me the possible colours of horses so while this was not so very new to me it is still worth saying it out loud for everyone else. Cheers MateReplyDelete
There are many, many horse-painting articles on the internet; I was aiming for relative beginners to the subject. Thanks for taking an interest all the same.Delete
Nice progress. Not something i've had the pleasure of painting yet.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Simon. Horses are quite easy really - if you follow my method :-) .Delete
Great variation in the equine color scheme Colgar6! Definitely will come in handy if I ever continue my Game of Thrones Knights series. :)ReplyDelete
Well, there are plenty of other recipes for model horse colours on the Internet. Still, I'm delighted if you find my version useful!Delete
I admire your work, may I ask where you bought your horses with no tack from?ReplyDelete
They're plastic horses from Wargames Factory, originally produced for their ancient Persians I think.Delete
Sadly these models are long out of print, though I suppose it's just about possible that Warlord Games (who bought the rights to most/all of the Wargames Factory stuff) might re-release them some time.
I just linked to your painting guide from the Test of Honour group on FB.ReplyDelete
Very nice and something I will refer to as I have always struggled to get horses to look better then just brown with a wash over them.
Thanks, Lewis. I'm delighted if this article is helpful to you :-) .Delete
I used your advice for these big guys.
Those are nice, well done!Delete
Looks pretty good, even from a horse enthousiast pov ;)ReplyDelete
A few pointers on horse colour though: horses typically have black skin, no matter what colour they are. Places where she skin will show through the fur (around eyes, lips, nostrils and genitals) will therefore always be black/greyish, unless the horse has white spots there, such as a blaze. Underneath white spots, the skin is pink. Sometimes, the fur directly around these areas is very light, but the skin still black, this is known as 'mealy'.
You're spot on about hoof colour relating to leg colour. Also fun if you're going for details: hooves can be striped if the colour of the fur just above the hoof is spotted.
And white horses are called grey because they are not born white, they go grey with age until they are stark white. A younger grey horse may still have some of the old colour shine through, creating a dappled grey pattern. They're quite striking at this stage!
Thanks, that's a very useful set of additional data! I hadn't realised (for instance) that greys/dapple greys may change colour considerably as they grow older.Delete