Friday, May 25, 2012

Cavalry Painting Ideas

I'm working on a painting commission of a batch of SYW cavalry and I think that I stumbled upon an idea that gets me to the finish line sooner.

After priming the figures and laying down the base coat of black acrylic (to cover up the raw primer paint, which sometimes has a rougher surface than does acrylic), I tried painting the entire horse before moving on to the rider. I glue horse and rider together in one piece prior to priming them. I know that some people keep the two separate and only glue them together at the end.

I use a lot of dry brushing technique on my horses, which means that it is common to have some of the horse color spill over onto the rider. This means that I have to go back and touch up the rider to eliminate the excess paint. However, if I paint the entire horse first, then I don't have to spend time touching up the rider. I simply move on to painting the rider. The net result is that it seems to make the painting process go faster. Also, it eliminates the "dreads" that I get when I paint the horse last. I don't always like painting horses so this dread sort of goes away, i.e. once the rider is finished, so is the entire figure.

On another front, I have found that I am starting to mix my own colors when I paint. Oh, I'll use the base color right out of the bottle, but now I tend to use the base color plus a lighter color mixed in to provide the highlight color to the figure. This way I am sure to get a highlight that is in the same part of the color wheel as the base color. Sometimes using triad paint groups just doesn't give me the result that I'm looking for.


  1. Interesting, and I'll give this method a shot when next I tackle a cavalry unit. This blog post might also be worthy of expansion into a full-length magazine article (hint, hint).

    Best Regards,


  2. Color palette for horses, please? I have developed some acceptable methods for blacks, blood bays, and grays, and okay methods for duns and palominos, but plain old duns and chestnuts are bothering me.

    I am one of those folks who paint the horse and rider separate now. I did not use to be, but I have fully converted. I'm currently painting some figures I had prepared to paint a year ago, but never got to, using method #1 (rider glued to horse pre-painting) at the same time as I am painting some newer figures using method #2, and I find it much easier!

    Also, as always, photos or it didn't happen!

  3. Most interesting that you are working on horses at the same time as I am about to move on 40 x 28mm cavalry.

    When I can I base black, right now I am out so it will be gray.

    Then comes a layer of black/brown mix. let it dry.

    Then, a method that Bluebear Jeff showed me, use a very close to dry brush method with thinned out white paint (I have herd it called 'pulling' and 'wetbrush'). When all that has dried, then you can use a red or brown or orange or yellow (the undertone color of various shades of brown horses) in a very wet mix over the 'white' wetbrushed horse. Let dry

    Then comes a thinned out brown, or redbrown mix. Sometimes I use inks for this layer as it lets the color come through from below better, other times it is an ink and paint mix, always thinned out.

    Let dry.

    All the layers up to this point have been with a very loose hand and super super fast. I once did 108 cavalry in 6 days of work - it was over 2 weeks of time - due to other work getting in the way.

    Now you have the bulk of the color work done. Blazes, stockings and other markings go on and then you do the horse furniture that is on the horse model.

    Attach rider when he is done.

    I found that the loose and wet work could be done fast and while it was drying I could spend time on the riders doing the faces, uniforms and equipment. The detail on the horse furniture and tack sometimes takes some finicky work (depending on the castings) otherwise the horse was a breeze compared to the lace on Hussars or the detailed belts of Guardsmen.