Thursday, 14 May 2020

Horsing around!

This is a quick post on the subject of painting 18mm horses. I have been experimenting a bit recently with browns and chestnuts and think I have found a solution. Here is a base of 4 French Dragoons with the horses painted in just three basic shades, Flat Brown, Cavalry Brown and German Camouflage Orange - all Vallejo. Between the three of them I think they can produce some rather nice horse shades. The cavalry brown alone is just a bit too red for my liking, but knocked back with a bit of flat brown it makes a good base shade. Flat brown is a good basic horse shade and when mixed with the German orange provides good highlights. The muscle tone on the Blue Moon horses is pronounced enough to take the highlights.

For this project I decided to try to brighten things up a bit with stronger highlights and a heavy satin varnish. You can see how the varnish brings out the highlights.

Pre varnish, looking rather flat.
Satin varnish applied.
DBN base.


  1. Very handsome mounts (and riders) there.

    Best Regards,


  2. Replies
    1. Cheers Steve, I enjoy painting horses.

  3. Thanks for the tip on knocking the cavalry brown back - it is a useful base, but as you say, too red.

    1. Hi Norm, yes, a bit too red. I'm now using it to highlight a flat brown base, mixed 50/50 with the brown it gives a perfect highlight for a chestnut.

  4. Very nice post, Lee - that's interesting and useful. These are very attractive little castings, and you've made a lovely job of them. Painting horses is one of the great druidic mysteries of the world - I enjoy the challenge, but some things just don't work for me - my horses are frequently not very horse-like. Any chance we could crowd-fund a session from you on painting greys? 8-) My history of greys has some very strange results - anything from duck-egg green southwards.

    I am friendly with the lady who owns the livery stable and stud on the farm here, and I've occasionally asked her casually about valid combinations of colours - coat vs mane etc - she worried me by saying that these things vary by time and location - she regularly sees horses in movies which are wrong - e.g. breeds of horse in the AWI which would be very unlikely at that time in that context.

    This is a whole dimension beyond incorrect belt-buckles! She actually emailed me details of a book on the subject, but it retails at £80 or so, and I decided my interest stopped rather short of that.

    I digress - anything you wish to say about painting horses is of great interest!

    1. Hi Tony. Over the years I have seen many strange horse shades on the wargame table. I myself have struggled with some horse, duns, roans etc remain a bit of a challenge, but I'm pretty comfortable now with my shades of 'browns'. I still recall the guide in the back of the old WRG Ancients written by Phil Barker, whom I believe used to ride, which proved very useful over the years to me. There is of course all manner of horse charts to be found on the interweb nowdays. I find greys difficult, but a good medium grey basecoat, fairly dry brushed over black followed by ivory highlights is what I use now. Dappling can improve the look but I would really not fancy painting a unit of Scots Greys in 28mm, they would all look the same!

  5. brilliant looking horses, congrats , cheers Old John

  6. Great looking dragoons and horses! Lovely painting and basing!
    Best Iain

  7. Very effective method, and I like the different shades on each horse

    Many years ago Peter Guilder showed me how he painted his horses. He used a light undercoat, using humbrol paint, and allowed it to dry fully. He then painted the horse in a basic colour, using oil paint. He then lightly rubbed the horse with a piece of linen, which removed the excess paint. Where the undercoat showed through provided the highlights.

    It looked so simple when he did it, and the result was beautiful. I never really mastered the method, and my results were not nearly so impressive. But much better than I could ever achieve by shading.

    I think all methods have their merits, and all depend on a degree of skill

    best regards


  8. The horses (and riders) look really good, excellent work!

    1. Cheers Ian. Good luck with your Zoom encounter!

  9. Hello Jan, I hope that you and Paul and enjoying the freedom to get out and walk again.

    I remember the peter Gilder method, it certainly produced many beautiful horses. I had not realised he used oils to get that sheen and highlight, makes sense though.

    Painting these little 18mm scale horses ismuch esier than 28mm for me, I always struggled with 28mm horses.

    All the best to you, stay safe,



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