Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Painting Horses for Wargames

Introduction

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!

Equine Colours

There are many serious articles about horse colours available on the Internet such as these, for starters:
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.


Adding Details

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...


Finishing Off

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!

23 comments:

  1. 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
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I'm pleased that you found this useful :-) .

      Delete
  2. I always struggle with horses for some reason, cheers bud

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if you follow my recipe then you might find it quite easy. At least, that's what I would hope...

      Delete
  3. There's a brilliant Blog here http://troubleatthemill.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/horse-of-different-colour.html

    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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 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
    2. 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).

      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.

      Delete
  4. A very informative post. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I imagine that old hands such as yourself know this stuff already, but thanks for your interest nevertheless :-) .

      Delete
  5. Thank you.
    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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll hope to see some results from you soon, then :-) .

      Delete
  6. 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
    Replies
    1. As I said to Cedric above, I'll expect to see you paint at least a few test models in the near future :-) .

      Delete
  7. A lovely post and a very effective style - you make it look so easy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 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
  8. Good tutorial C6, covering all the essentials needed to paint a quick and realistic model.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Joe. I don't know if it'll be useful to you, but I'm glad that you liked it anyway.

      Delete
  9. 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 Mate

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 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
  10. Nice progress. Not something i've had the pleasure of painting yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Simon. Horses are quite easy really - if you follow my method :-) .

      Delete
  11. Great variation in the equine color scheme Colgar6! Definitely will come in handy if I ever continue my Game of Thrones Knights series. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 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