Model Horse Repainting Made E-Z

What Kind Of Model Works Best?

ANY model will work for repainting! The favorites are, of course, the Breyers, due to their availability and realism, but just about any other horse-shape object can be used. Chinas and Resins are also quite good. The nice thing about model painting is that there's no rules!



I work exclusively in Acrylics, so that's what will be discussed here. These paints come in tubes and are available at hobby and art supply stores, as well as the hobby/school supply of some discount stores (WalMart, etc.). Acrylics are water-based and dry quickly, which is why I like them. A good basic set of colors to start with are: Black, White, Burnt Sienna, and Raw Sienna. This is just a basic suggestion, feel free to experiment with other colors.


I have TONS of brushes, from the tiniest 000 to big ol' house-painting brushes. It's very important to have a variety for the different applications, but a good starter kit might be something along the line of a 0, a 2, and a 5 Sable Brush. It's also good to have some scrungy old things that you can wreck doing blends and things as well.

Blending Tools

I use a variety of tools to blend the paint once it's on the model. The afore mentioned old paint brushes, cut very short down to 1/8" in length, for once. I also love to use cosmetic sponges (triangle or circular), and foam rubber. I've also had good luck with my fingertips!


This is a water-based primer which works very well to prep the model before painting. Its slightly chalky surface allows the paint to adhere better than if there were nothing. Gesso is available at the hobby/art supply stores, and now even comes in colors such as black and grey, in addition to the traditional white. It is also available in spray cans. Some repainters like to use Auto Primer for its economy and ease of use. Experiment!

Matte Sealer

This is a spray product used to prep glazed China and Ceramic horses, but its main use is to protect the completed repainted horse. Once the paint is totally dry, a coat of this protectant will help keep the paint spotless and smudgeless. It also comes in a Gloss finish, but Matte is prefered. Available in Craft and Art Supply Stores

Preparation of the Body

If you're working with a plastic horse, such as the Breyers, there is very little preparation needed. The amount of prep work depends on how fussy you are. There is no need to remove the factory paint at all. If you wish, the seams may be sanded smooth. Some people like to carve out the ears and hooves, and add 3-D veining before painting, but this is covered in the Remaking page.

If you're working with a china or ceramic horse, such as a Hagen-Renaker, it's almost mandatory to treat the horse before painting. Otherwise the paints will not stick to the glazed surface. I like to use Krylon (TM) Matte Spray Finish. This and other brands are readily available in Hobby and Art Supply Stores. What it does is coat the model with a matte acrylic finish to which the paint will readily adhere. This product is also used once the painting is finished to protect the paint.

Resin horses, if received unpainted, also need special preparation. 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 a primer paint to seal the resin and allow better adherance of the paint. I like to use simple white gesso for this.

Basic Repainting

I'll explain as best I can how I do a basic paint job. I won't get into things like dappled greys and Appaloosas due to the limits of this format, but like they say, you have to crawl before you can walk!

Generally I work from light-to-dark-to-light. I start by mixing a light shade of the body color, let's say Bay for this instance. I'll mix about 20% burnt sienna with 70% white and maybe 10% raw sienna, to get a light tan cream color. I'll paint the underside of the horse in this color...the belly, chest, genital area, inside of the legs. Once this dries, I'll darken the paint by adding more burnt sienna, and with this, paint the rest of the horse, blending in with the lighter color on the underside. Let dry completely.

Using burnt sienna with maybe a touch of raw sienna, I'll use a brush to apply the paint along the top of the muscles/area to be that color. Then using a cosmetic sponge, dabbing at the paint, I'll blend and feather it into the lighter color underneath it. Sometimes I have to grab a fresh sponge, as I want a dry-brush effect. If the sponge gets saturated with paint, it will cause bubbles and not blend as smoothly.

I'll continue doing this, using progressively darker paints, letting the paint dry between colors. I can't stress the importance of using reference photos when painting to show you where the shadings and highlights are on a real horse. Using these photos for guides will really help you.

Once I've applied the darkest layer of paint and it has dried, I then start mixing progressively brighter paints and using these for highlights on the muscles. In this case I would add the raw sienna to the burnt sienna to get more of a golden brown. I'll then want to touch up the light underside of the horse, so I'll 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 I feel it adds a glow to the colors that would not be there otherwise. It's not uncommon for one of my repaints to have 10-15 layers of tones!

For darker points, such as for our bay, I use a dark brown to shade the lower legs/muzzle area. Once that dries, I'll work to progressively darker shades of brown, and when I finally do get to black, I only use it on the hocks/fronts 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 I will 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, I like to first map out the markings with a white wash, that is white paint dilluted to a transparent consistency. Once that dries, I'll go over it with the white, careful to make sure that the edges of the markings are horses never have stockings that go straight across 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 smallish 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!

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 y ou'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 nail polish.

Once the horse is dry, spray with the matte finish to protect it. Now you're ready for Hairing, or if not, you're ready to show!