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"How to paint a black horse?" Topic

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Crocus09 Jul 2012 3:55 a.m. PST

My new Pict general needs a nice black horse. Previous attempts have givn me greyish/blackish prancers but I want a truly black black horse in 25mm.

Your wisdom is awaited eagerly…



Steve W09 Jul 2012 4:11 a.m. PST

Would painting it black then some very dark blue highlights do the trick…I think thats how Kevin Dallimire painted hi Nazgul which are all black as well

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 4:17 a.m. PST

Also, use a satin or semi-gloss finish rather than a matte finish. That will make the black appear deeper and richer with the reflected light.

Timmo uk09 Jul 2012 4:21 a.m. PST

Use black with a little bit of burnt umber in it. The brown is a warm colour and it will soften off the appearance of the black in a natural way.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop09 Jul 2012 4:27 a.m. PST

Thanks for this, I've got a Mounted Zorro to do…

Bob Hume09 Jul 2012 4:39 a.m. PST

Mix a little sky blue into your black. This will lighten the black without making it grey. Maybe add a touch of purple, then shade with dark black or black ink. It works really well for black clothing, should work for a horse too.

CPT Jake09 Jul 2012 4:42 a.m. PST

I have a black horse. The reality is if a black horse spends any amount of time in the sun, it looks like a dark brown horse.

In this picture, my daughter is on Lukka, our black Icelandic mare:


Note the brown highlights. The burnt umber trick is probably a decent way to get this.

Here is another shot of daughter on Lukka showing it better:


zippyfusenet09 Jul 2012 4:50 a.m. PST

In Scotland, there would be little danger of a Pictish general's black steed bleaching in the sun…

langobard09 Jul 2012 4:51 a.m. PST

I come close to what Bob Hume does, I put a wash of blue ink over the black paint, I find this brings up a nice sheen while not overdoing the 'black'aspect.

Well, I think its a nice outcome on 15 and 28mm miniatures, but my knowledge of real horses is non existent :)

Barks109 Jul 2012 5:24 a.m. PST

Black, highlights in dark grey-blue

Sundance09 Jul 2012 5:57 a.m. PST

I paint them black with a really dark brown drybrush – usually I use Vallejo German camoflage black brown.

TamsinP09 Jul 2012 6:21 a.m. PST

I've had good results using a black ink wash over a mahogany- or chocolate-brown base coat. Best to go thin with the ink wash and build up in layers until you are happy with the colour.

WillieB09 Jul 2012 7:01 a.m. PST

For a really dark 'black' horse basecoat with purple and paint the whole animal dark blueish- black. It will look extremely dark as oddly enough you can shade black
with purple.Highlight with either grey or lilac.

For a 'normal' black horse dark brownish/ black with black shadows and light grey highlights over a grey basecoat.

Of course I normally use oil paint but it should work with acrylics as well.

Crocus09 Jul 2012 7:26 a.m. PST

Thanks for your responses, most helpful. I've undercoated black so I think I'll go with pale blue/black mix highlights and see how that goes for now.

As I have some more cavalry prepared I will try the black washes over mahogany and the purple, though the thought of lilac highlights does admittedly sound pretty odd!

I have read about and seen the results of oil painted horses since my childhood and have never tried. One day… (like my Viking army, the Sassanids, the war of the Roses armies, etc etc!)

oldbob09 Jul 2012 7:37 a.m. PST

Don't use Black as the base coat, only use Black to shade. Very dark grays or very dark brown are good base coat for Black horses. Do the mane and tail as you wish, usually a very fine dry brushing with a light gray or off white, then a Black or blue black wash, two to three coats should do it.

SonofThor09 Jul 2012 8:40 a.m. PST

I use GW's Black (used to be chaos black) as a base and then i use Howard Hues black, it looks black until you compare it to real black, and then i gradually add other really dark greys to it like GW Adeptus Battle Gray or the Privateer press equivalent. But the Howard Hues color is really amazing and really helps bring out the blackness.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 11:34 a.m. PST

The Howard Hues black is indeed a very, very dark grey; quite handy. HH do some nice horse colours.

BelgianRay09 Jul 2012 11:40 a.m. PST

"Use black with a little bit of burnt umber in it. The brown is a warm colour and it will soften off the appearance of the black in a natural way." states Timmo uk

and I concur, but suggest you do it with oils, you'll be amazed at the result and ease of painting

" use a satin or semi-gloss finish rather than a matte finish" is a smart way to go indeed TKindred, a flat robe on a horse gives a sic horse….

Benvartok09 Jul 2012 2:05 p.m. PST

Another option…

Black undercoat then highlight with Vellejo 70995 German Grey then a GW black wash.

Or if you don't like washes then mix the german grey with a bit of black to darken for the hightlights.

Mitch K09 Jul 2012 2:17 p.m. PST

Watercolour artists mix "black" by blending burnt sienna / burnt umber with ultramarine blue. This gives a "natural black" (for want of a better term), that has sufficient difference in depth to allow you to use real black to shade. I have used the same approach with acrylics, and it seems to work for me.

Mitch K09 Jul 2012 2:20 p.m. PST


another thought – check out highland ponies. This breed is probably not so far from the smaller horses that the Picts might have ridden (Galloways were probably similar too, but they're extinct…). Black animals from this breed aren't jet black / indian ink colour, but a brownish black not at all like a black hunter or similar.

CPT Jake09 Jul 2012 4:11 p.m. PST

Mitch K,

I suspect the Icelandic in my pictures is similar to what you descibe.

rampantlion09 Jul 2012 4:18 p.m. PST

A quick simple way is to paint it black and highlight ever so lightly with a really dark grey and a subtle depth comes out of it. Not as good as some of the ideas above, but really quick and looks good to me.


Personal logo Condotta Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 6:35 p.m. PST

Anyone doing oils on plastic? Assembling Perry Bros plastic heavy horse as Carabiniers, so all blacks except trumpeters on greys. Do I prime black or grey, then wipe on dark brown, let dry thoroughly, wipe on black or umber, wipe that off leaving some of the dark brown as highlights?

IGWARG1 Fezian10 Jul 2012 7:08 a.m. PST

If you wanna paint – don't paint the black horse. If you wanna paint – don't paint the black pony!

Trajanus11 Jul 2012 1:48 a.m. PST

Use black with a little bit of burnt umber in it. The brown is a warm colour and it will soften off the appearance of the black in a natural way

Certainly true of my two Black cats – in bright sunlight there's a lot of brown about them.

Lion in the Stars11 Jul 2012 10:51 a.m. PST

I'd suggest whatever GW calls 'Scorched Brown' these days as the base color and give it a black wash or two.

You can actually use something as light as milk chocolate brown with this (and I would, since the black wash will really darken the shade).

I would avoid the red-brown of a chestnut, however.

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