Thursday, January 29, 2015

Progress on my ECW Horses

I now have close to 150 horses almost finished . . . that is the good news.  The bad news is that I am not nearly so far along with their riders.

All that I have left to do with these horses is to paint their saddle cloths . . . but they look like a lot of horses, don't they?

What?  Do I hear mummers of unease?  Surely I need to add more horsey detailing? . . .  Actually, no. . . . Please allow me to espouse a bit of my tabletop philosophy.

With cavalry I want the focus to be on the rider, not the horse.  I paint my horses very quickly and simply (as described below).  Particularly since they will be in units, I want the viewers' eyes to "see" horse (you did, didn't you, when you saw the photo above?) and to focus on the rider.

I know that others paint beautiful horses . . . and I appreciate that . . . but my figures are for tabletop play and I'm satisfied with my philosophy.

Some years ago I was timed on my horse painting technique and it was determined that I spent less than a minute and a half total brush time per horse.

"Impossible", you say?  Not at all.  There is of course considerable "drying time" between steps associated with my method, but the "brush time" is quite short.

I start by "black priming" with a spray primer (this is not "brush time" but it doesn't take long).  I wait at least a day, usually more before moving on.  Then I do a very quick "damp brush" with white over the horses . . . so that the raised areas and broad flat areas are covered.  The result looks something like this:

Each horse (even those with the same pose) will have a slightly different mix of black and white.  After that dries, I will then do another (slightly drier) "damp brush" with a "horse color" (numerous tans, light browns, red-browns, and darker browns).

It is important to keep in mind the fact that most paints (especially yellows, reds, and many browns) are really translucent and not opaque.  I don't have a photos of this step, but the result should have a mix of black, white and horse color . . . but it is certainly on the blotchy side.

After they are dry, the final step is to "ink them".  I mostly used two different inks for the horses at the top of this post . . . a chestnut ink and a tree brown ink. . . . I mixed them each about 50/50 with water and "washed" the horses with one or the other. 

(Note -- a few horses were washed with a third "nut brown" ink that didn't do well so I will have to re-ink those before using them on the table top.  Perhaps you can spot them.)

I should also note that I turn the painting stick upside down so to be sure to get their bellies and undercuts from below, then run some wash over the top as well.  And again, this (like previous steps) is a very quick process.  I am not being "overly careful".

You can see the result . . . and they look like horses to me . . . although they will look much better with riders (which are not nearly as easy to paint):

-- Jeff


  1. Holy Cow! Are you kidding me? That is a lot of horse flesh! I cannot imagine tackling 150 of the beasts at one time. That is an unbelievable feat. What a terrific sensation it will be to put the last touch of paint to the last rider.

    Appreciate the tutorial on how you paint horses.

    One hundred fifty horses on the painting table is really an AWESOME sight.

    1. Jonathan,

      I don't know how to break this to you . . . but I still have all of the Dragoon horses and most of the Generals' horses to start on.

      -- Jeff

  2. I certainly approve of your philosophy, get them on the table, that is what it's all about...Ian

  3. crazy! love it!
    Was trying that with some 10mm fantasy years ago, and then some 15mm hoplites, never finished the experiment, still sitting in a box somewhere. Have to get to it!

  4. Having just painted 100+ Cavalry Men I know the experience you are just going through...

    now following...