How to Paint: Quick and Easy Horses (Part 2 of 2)

Carrying on from my previous post on painting horses, we continue to go for a quick and easy look, a gaming standard suitable for the battlefield.

Last time we covered getting the base colours and highlights on the flesh, mane and tail.

This time we are going to look at the detailing that really makes the models pop a bit more. We are going to add markings onto them. For this tutorial we will be using white markings, built up from grey, but I have also has success with more cream tones built up from Gorthor Brown. I’ll mark the alternate colours where necessary so you can try both, if you want even greater variety.

Basecoat sock/leg and facial markings

This is the first stage of detailing, but probably the one which requires the most thought. When you look at horses, their markings are often asymmetrical. Therefore, you want to vary the markings that you will be painting on each leg.

For example, in the pictures below, the first horse (left) has three legs with socks painted to below the knee, and one leg without any markings. The colour used is Citadel Mechanicus Standard Grey (replace with Gorthor Brown if you want a more beige coloured marking). Again, you can use a relatively large basecoat brush here as you don’t need to be too neat.

Also, if you have painted any of the horses a mid-grey as per the last article, you can dispense with this step!

The second horse (right) has one sock below the knee and one above, and no markings on its front two legs.

If anything, I like to vary the markings more than would be on real horses: it is more striking on the tabletop for the bright white details to stand out.

The same is done for facial markings, adding stars (the small spot on the forehead) and stripes (the long bar down the middle of the face):

Again, not all of the horses get the same markings, and some have none at all (I tend to go for just over 50% with markings). I also tend to add less markings to lighter coloured horses, as they stand out a bit more anyway.

Highlight markings

The next stage is similar to the highlight stage of last week’s post. Simply use the contours of the horse’s muscles to highlight the Mechanicus Standard Grey basecoat you have applied with Administratum Grey (or Baneblade Brown for the beige variant mentioned above).

Depending on your confidence level, this can still be done with a basecoat brush, or if you are less sure of yourself, it’s time to switch to a detail brush.

You will start to see how the buildup of colour makes the darker horses start to stand out:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Final Highlight and Eyes

The final highlight means going over the same marking areas again, this time with Citadel White Scar. For this stage I always use a fine brush, as you want to leave some of the Administratum Grey showing so that you can see the layers of highlights.

Whilst painting these in white, I also make sure to paint the eyes in white.

As horses’ eyes are larger than humans, and the horse rarely has any head covering that would shade its eyes (unlike helmeted riders etc.) it really does make a marked difference painting these in.

Not only that, the larger eyeballs make it easier to paint in. Just remember when adding the black pupils to the horse that as a prey animal, the horse’s eyes face outwards rather then forwards (i.e. they should still be at the centre of each eyeball). Painting them so they are focussed forwards like you would on a human leads to some cross-eyed horses!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see, this final white stage really makes them stand out.

Now it is time to paint the tack, and get them based!


This now becomes personal preference: in the main, I like to leave my tack black for uniform armies like my Imperial Guard or Byzantines.

For Medieval armies, the tack often depends on the livery of the rider, and so can be multi-coloured.

Either way, one colour and a single subdued highlight is usually ok here (e.g. Abaddon Black> Eshin Grey). The most important thing is that your base coat for the tack covers any mishaps you may have had in painting the horse. Those lines of solid colour around the horse make it look much neater than I have actually painted it!


Finally, you can tidy up any areas where the paint from the horse has gone on to the base of the model and then add your static grass/flock or basing material of your choice. This should match the rest of your army, but also be aware of how the colours of your base work with the model you have painted. e.g. Grey stone bases with snow flock won’t look great for grey horses with white socks: they are too similar.

That is one of the reasons that I like to paint and highlight the basing material first, as it can inform your choice of horse colours!

Once your bases are done, you are ready to add riders and get gaming.

By using this technique, you should hopefully now have horses that add to the character of your riders without overshadowing them on the battlefield.

To finish, here are some examples of horses from different armies I have painted over the years using this technique:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


As you can see, this technique depends a lot on the sculpt: see the difference between the Warlord Games horse on the companion cavalry and the meatier GW horses- the highlights are much more pronounced on the larger horse.

Also worth noting are the nomads and their patchy horses. This uses the same technique as painting the socks on the other horses (using the light brown version), and just expands to cover more of their body.

Hopefully this has helped with the task of getting those cavalry forces onto the field!

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions/comments about the technique above, then feel free to drop me a line in the comments below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.