Customizing your own Breyer Horse, Grand Champion
Horse, or Stone Horse is one of the most fun things
for a model horse hobbyist because this is where
they can get creative and make the horse look
totally different! That’s right; you can use any
model horse. Of course, Breyer is the favorite to
most hobbyists because of the realism and
availability of them.
Most model horse hobbyists that customize use
Acrylics, so that’s what will be discussed in this
article. Acrylic Paints come in tubes. They are
water-based and dry quickly unlike most paints,
which is why a lot of people use them. You can find
these paints at a hobby and art supply store, as
well as Wal-Mart and other discount stores that
carry the hobbies/school supplies. A good basic set
of colors to start with are: Black, White, Burnt
Sienna, and Raw Sienna. If you are feeling more
daring and experimental, feel free to experiment
with other colors.
Its better if you have a large variety of different
brushes, but a good starter kit along the lines of a
0, a 2, and a 5 Sable Brush will do just fine. A
separate pair of scrungy brushes is good to have for
wrecking when you work with blending and things.
Blending tools is to make the model horse look
realistic and not cheesy. Every artist should have a
set of blending tools for any project they’re
painting. The scrungy paint brushes mentioned above,
cut very short down to 1/8” in length. Triangle
and/or Circular cosmetic sponges and foam rubber is
a popular choice for blending tools. A lot of people
have had good luck using their fingertips!
Gesso is a weird name, but it’s a popular
water-based primer which works very well to prepare
the model horse before painting. Gesso turns the
surface of the model horse to feel slightly chalky,
which allows the paint to adhere better than if
there were nothing at all. Like the Acrylics, Gesso
is available at the hobby/art supply stores. The
colors come in black, grey, and the traditional
white. It is also available in spray cans. A lot of
hobbyists like to use Auto Primer for its
economy and it’s easy to use. Experiment with
different ones and see what you come up with!
Matte Sealer is used for a couple different things,
but its main use is to protect the completed
repainted horse. This spray product is actually used
to prep glazed China and Ceramic horses. Spray a
coat of this protectant once the paint is completely
dry so it prevents paint spots and smudges. It also
comes in a Gloss finish, but Matte is preferred.
Available in Craft and Art Supply Stores.
of the Body
There is very little preparation needed if you’re
working with a plastic horse, such as Breyer or
Grand Champions. The amount of prep work depends on
how picky you are. There is no need to remove the
factory paint at all; after all, you are going to be
painting over it. If you want, the seams may be
sanded smooth. Some repainters like to carve out the
ears and hooves to add a 3-D
veining before painting, but this would be
considered Remaking, which you find in our article:
Remaking of the Model Horse.
you’re working with a china or ceramic horse, such
as a Hagen-Renaker, it’s almost mandatory to treat
the horse before you paint it. If you don’t, the
paints will not stick because of the glazed surface.
Experienced repainters like to coat the model horse
with Krylon™ Matte Spray Finish. Or you can use
other brands that are available in Hobby and Art
Supply Stores. This way when you paint the horse, it
will adhere instead of coming off. This product is
also used when you’re finished repainting your horse
to protect the paint.
Resin horses also need
special preparation even if received unpainted. Many
of the casters recommend cleaning the model with a
bleach solution to remove oils, and then the model
should be coated with some sort of primer paint to
seal the resin and allow better adherence of the
paint. Simple white gesso with do great for this.
with Basic Painting
Basic painting does not
include advanced painting jobs such as Appaloosas or
Dappled Greys. Start with easy tasks or you will get
Explained is how the
Bay-Colored horse is painted. We’ll work from
light-to-dark-to-light. To get a light tan cream
color, you need to mix about 20% Burnt Sienna, 10%
Raw Sienna, and maybe 70% white. Paint the underside
of the horse in this color… the belly, chest,
genital area, and the inside of the legs. Set it
down to dry. Once dried, add more burnt sienna to
darken the paint you already mixed. Paint the rest
of the horse with the darker color, blending it with
the lighter color on the underside. Before
continuing on, let your model horse dry completely.
Using Burnt Sienna with
a touch of Raw Sienna, use a brush to apply the
paint along the top of the muscles-area to be that
color. This makes those parts look shadowed for a
realistic look. Then using a cosmetic sponge,
dabbing at the paint, blend and feather it into the
lighter color underneath it. You may want to grab a
fresh sponge if you want a dry-brush effect. If the
sponge gets saturated with paint, it will cause
bubbles and will not blend as smoothly.
Continue doing this,
using progressively darker paints, letting the paint
dry between colors. Using reference photos when
painting your model horse will show you where the
shading and highlights are on a real horse. Using
these photos for guides will really help you.
Once applying the darkest
layer of paint and it has dried, start mixing
progressively brighter paints using these for
highlights on the muscles. In this case, add the Raw
Sienna to the Burnt Sienna to get more of a golden
brown. You may want to touch up the light underside
of the horse, so add more white to the golden brown
and go over the lighter areas. By this time 99% of
the original layer of paints has probably been
totally covered up, but it adds a glow to the colors
that would not be there otherwise. It’s not uncommon
for one of the repainted model horses to have 10-15
layers of tones!
For darker points, such
as for your bay, use a dark brown to shade the lower
legs and muzzle area. Once that dries, work at it
some more to darker shades of brown, until you get
to a black (only use it on the hocks and the front
of the knees, the front of the cannon bones, and the
front of the fetlocks, letting the brown show
through on the back of the legs). For muzzles, only
use black on the very front of the muzzle between
the nostrils, and let the darker browns make up the
rest of the muzzle shadings. Otherwise the horse
will look like he’d been drinking from an inkwell!
For white markings, you
should first map out the markings with white wash,
that is white paint diluted to a transparent
consistency. Once that drives, go over it with the
white, carefully making sure that the edges of the
markings are irregular…real horses never have
stockings that go straight access their legs, there
is always some irregularity.
A quick and easy dappling
method for solid colors is to mix some paint a shade
or two lighter than the color you want to dapple.
This paint is then thinned slightly (not too
runny!). Using a
brush (a number 1 or 2), lightly dab on the paint in
the area you want dappled. Only dapple a half dozen
at a time. Quickly, before the paint dries, take
your finger (or cosmetic sponge) and dab at the
dapples, blotting them. You can also dab your
then-wet finger on the surrounding area, and this
creates fainter dapples in the background. This
works great for solid colors as well!
For Eyes, perhaps what’s
simplest for beginners is to simply paint them solid
black. When you view a horse from any distance,
their eyes appear black anyway. It’s better to do
that than to try to paint a fancy tri-colored eye
and end up with something that looks like a freak.
Once the paint is dry, dot the eyes (and the
nostrils while you’re at it) with clear nail polish.
This will give them that “lifelike shine”.
Hooves are quite fun.
If your horse is going to be a showhorse, and is not
an Appaloosa, you can take the easy way out and
paint all the hooves black. Showhorses can have
blacked hooves, no matter what color their legs are.
Appaloosas are the exception. Since they have the
striped hooves, they are shown with clear hoof
polish to show off their striping. If the horse will
not be wearing hoof black, then remember if the leg
is dark, the hoof is dark. If the leg is white, the
hoof is light. There are exceptions, but this is
just the basics. I find a good dark hoof color is
black mixed with some burnt sienna to give a real
blackish-brown color. If the horse is a grey, I like
to go with a dark grey instead. For a light hoof,
you can't go wrong with white, raw sienna, and a
touch of burnt sienna to give it that pinkish shell
color. Experiment. And if you want to get really
tricky, use a white wash around the coronet band to
give the appearance of the growth band on a real
hoof! If you want to give it the hoof polish effect,
once the paint is dry, coat the hooves with clear
Once the horse is
dry, spray with the matte finish to protect it. Now
you're ready for Hairing, if not, you're ready to