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"Painting horse markings?" Topic

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AegonTheUnready25 Jul 2019 12:03 p.m. PST

How many points and blazes do you put on, if any?

Right now I'm touching up a bunch of horse archers,and the horses are all just entirely dark brown. Decided to add off-white points and blazes to half of them, just randomly slapping it on. Too much? Too little. I've looked at a lot of pictures, but not spent a lot of time around actual horse herds.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2019 12:20 p.m. PST

I look for mistakes or imperfections in my painting and put a sock on it. That sometimes means none, rarely four.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Jul 2019 1:03 p.m. PST

I do blazes and socks 90% of the time. A horse person told me horses most often have an odd number of socks so 1 or 3 is most common though I do 2s and 4s every now and then.

They really bring a horse to life iMHO

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2019 1:47 p.m. PST

Always. I read my brother's copy of Imrie & Risley's Model Soldier Guide way back when. It had a chapter on painting horses and talked about such markings, so I've always thought them as required. It makes them look unique, instead of solid uniform brown.

I was rewarded in high school when a friend who was a "horse person" was impressed by my Airfix French cuirassiers because they had such markings, even though he had no interest in Napoleonics.

Swampster25 Jul 2019 2:31 p.m. PST

If they are all the same brown, then giving some of them a dark wash and adding lighter highlights to others will help to create some variety before you start of other markings.

There were (and still are to quite an extent) regional variations. Many Eastern steppe horses lacked much by way of white socks or face markings, though other colour variations can make up for it. Some of the Central Asian breeds have much more sign of socks – a quick google suggests that four socks are quite common and they can often be quite high (stockings).
Black leg markings also make quite a difference but are a bit harder to get right. Black muzzles can look great when done well but need the right highlighting and blending or it just makes it look like the horses have been drinking from a barrel of ink.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2019 2:33 p.m. PST

Now about half – previously none but as noted above they really do make the horses look better

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jul 2019 3:44 p.m. PST

About 75% of the time. Which is probably more than they exist in real life, but they make horses look more horsey.

As for socks, I believed that 1,2 or 4 was the most commonly seen and that 3 was rarer.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2019 3:58 p.m. PST

Almost all of them, I don't paint horses well so I use the blazes/socks to fancy them up.

goragrad25 Jul 2019 5:21 p.m. PST

Nearly all of my horses have black 'stockings.'

Pretty common in ranch country in SW Colorado.

I add white blazes and other marks after varnishing with Minwax (or equivalent) to keep them brighter.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2019 6:12 a.m. PST

WE have recently been reminded that colonels of cavalry favoured horses lacking such markings and that indeed, there is still practice of concealing them on the real thing.

But of course this is for units like the Household cavalry, on parade and in peacetime.

I never fail to add facial markings and some white socks….an odd number usually for each horse. The black stocking above? Only for bays. Remember a chestnut horse has no black hair anywhere.

Garde de Paris26 Jul 2019 7:03 a.m. PST

Deadhead, can you describe a "Chestnut" horse. I always thought it was brown color, but I use bays for most of my horses. I like the black mane, legs and tail from claybank to dark brown, with "Chestnut" in between.

The Empress Dragoons we supposed to use brown horses with no black?


Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2019 7:56 a.m. PST

A chestnut horse can be any shade of brown, from a very dark to a light reddish variant. I tend to use chestnut ink over various light browns and then try to take off the glossy finish with a matt varnish. But a chestnut horse has no black hair. So his mane and tail can vary from his body colour to a very light sandy finish….but not black. He can certainly have white face markings and socks, but no black on his legs.

A bay horse I think looks far more realistic in model form. Again any shade of brown, but with black mane, tail, tips to ears and legs above any white socks..

Empress Dragoons….Chestnut in every picture. No black hair to be seen. Funnily enough Histoire and Collections says "Dragoons Mounted Bays" (P26) illustrated with a really nice picture of a chestnut horse (as throughout the text)

Rich Bliss26 Jul 2019 10:52 a.m. PST

Try this


Widowson26 Jul 2019 11:01 a.m. PST

Don't forget that the socks change the color of the hooves. A non-sock hoof is medium to dark grey. With a sock it turns brown or dark tan. Correct me if I'm wrong. I could have that backwards.

von Schwartz26 Jul 2019 11:45 a.m. PST

Gotta go along with Extra Crispy about the blazes. It is true and I AM a horse person. Many horses also have black "points" which usually means real dark brown or black below the knees and a black tail and mane, sometimes all and sometimes a mixture of two or all three. If the mane is black so is the tail and visa versa.
Widowson is correct about the hooves, however if on parade the rider/owner may "paint" the hooves black for show.
Also, remember, horses are kinda like snowflakes, no two are identical, generally speaking. However, most military cavalry units attempted to get horses of a generally uniform color, i.e. The Blues, The Scots Greys, etc. But even within this the horses coloring and markings may vary so they will try to group the different shades by squadron. Heavies may have all different shades of brown horses, with really dark horses in one squadron, slightly lighter ones in another, and so forth. Finally remember, musicians horses are almost always grey or white.
Oh and BTW, remember the old adage, the best plans never survive first contact. If the unit has been on campaign and/or in combat it may be necessary to literally NOT look a gift horse in the mouth, (smile)

wrgmr126 Jul 2019 10:24 p.m. PST

I paint some with a Paynes Grey from the fetlock down. Others with socks, grey the white high light.


Erzherzog Johann27 Jul 2019 2:34 a.m. PST

Swampster wrote:
"There were (and still are to quite an extent) regional variations. Many Eastern steppe horses lacked much by way of white socks or face markings, though other colour variations can make up for it. Some of the Central Asian breeds have much more sign of socks".

I'd be really interested in learning more about this regional variation. Is there a good online source to read more about this?


Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2019 4:28 a.m. PST

Wrgmr1's is just what I was looking for to explain better the difference between a chestnut and a bay. The nearest horse is the only bay. The other four are chestnuts. Notice that "Chestnut" is not a colour in this context. However dark brown the mane, tail etc it is not black. The two middle horses COULD occasionally even show much lighter mane/tails…a sort of sandy colour…but not darker

AegonTheUnready27 Jul 2019 10:34 a.m. PST

What is a good ratio of chestnut<->bays<->others? 40/40/20 ? 60/30/10?

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2019 2:16 a.m. PST

Well we will all put our trumpeters on greys….even the British!

"Top" units on black horses. Everyone still wants black for show. Household Cavalry, Grenadiers and Gendarmes d'Elite of the Guard, Carabiniers a Cheval and majority of Cuirassiers. Officers of any unit I tend to do on black horses, as the gold stands out better on the harness.

Bays have always been commoner than chestnuts and I think look more realistic in smaller scales. Single colour horse is slightly dull and, if you do lighten the mane/tail etc it can look like My Little Pony. But see the middle two above and how good they can look.

For your ratio, I would go more 20/70/10

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2019 3:59 a.m. PST

When you say the majority of cuirassiers were on black horses, do you mean armies in general or the French? Most depictions of French cuirassiers that I've seem show them on brown or bay horses.

von Schwartz28 Jul 2019 5:39 a.m. PST

Generally the horses preferred for war horses were darker colored, I would think your 20/70/10 is fairly accurate. Maybe they thought the dark color looked more dangerous.

Swampster28 Jul 2019 11:44 a.m. PST

For horse and musket periods, specific colours were often sought for various regiments. In France, for instance, there was an intention for horses to be sorted by colour by company.
"During peacetime the regiments of light and line cavalry had color of horses according to squadron :

I Squadron : 1st 'elite' company rode on blacks, 5th company on browns and blacks
II Squadron : 2nd company rode on bays, 6th company on bays
III Squadron : 3rd company on chestnuts, 7th company on chestnuts
IV Squadron : 4th and 8th company on grays and whites
But already after the first campaign (1805) only some colonels insisted on keeping up these peacetime practicies." link
Dark horses were considered to be stronger and fitter, so heavy cavalry units often grabbed these when possible. IIRC, by Waterloo even some of the prestigious units were having to give up some of these horses so that they could be used by the artillery.

My Russian hussars were painted using colours adopted just after the Nap Wars which helped identify them even more in 6mm. One had black horses and another had light bays.

For ancient and medieval horse colours, I've tried to find some decent books on the subject but tend to rely on modern photos combined with historic pictures. Chinese horses as shown through the ages often have such a distinctive colouring (dun with pale belly) that it is used for similar looking horses on prehistoric European cave paintings. The same colour is still common in Mongolian herds.

Other colours do appear in China and this

shows a good variety. Note the lack of socks compared to the horses seen in the modern West. A Chinese discussion of horses from the sixth century describes various white markings as being unlucky in all sorts of ways: a 'streak of white running from forehead to the mouth' will result in the rider either dying outside of his country or being executed in the marketplace. 'This is the most inauspicious of horses'. A horses with both rear feet white will kill women.

The attention to detail shown on many surviving Chinese and Japanese scrolls makes them very useful for getting a feel for the colours and variety used in those places. The look of the horses can be quite stylized, but the colours are generally more carefully done than European pictures of medieval times.

Central Asian horses often have a very distinctive almost metallic copper/bronze colour. Pictures in the various editions of the Shanameh give a good idea of the range of colours in Central Asia/Iran. There are also patterned horses which can add a lot of interest such as those from Kyrgyzstan with a similar pattern to Appaloosas (look for 'Chaar' horses.

If you really want to get into the subject, genetic surveys of horses found in mound tombs have been done. There is discussion as to whether the colours found are truly representative – certain colours may have been favoured and chosen for burial with an important person.

Greystreak29 Jul 2019 1:30 p.m. PST

Hoping these help:



Handlebarbleep05 Aug 2019 8:22 a.m. PST

"No2c General Cavalry Orders after Waterloo (June 1815)

20 July 1815 Memorandum

A troop horse of the 2nd Hussars of the KGL was lost whilst foraging on the 18th instant.

Bay mare 6 years old, 14 1/2 hands hight, small star, marked on the off fore hoof 2 II on the near foot II the No 23 is cut on the near shoulder & has sore back on the off side." The Warerloo Archive volume VII Gareth Glover, Ken Trotman 2019"

So at least we know the markings of one!

bilsonius06 Aug 2019 8:36 p.m. PST

'Of possible interest?' as the saying goes:

Re white socks, I was reminded of Mattie Ross's folk rhyme in "True Grit":
"One white foot buy 'em, two white feet try 'em, three white feet be on the sly, four white feet pass 'em by."

von Schwartz09 Aug 2019 5:58 p.m. PST

If she believed that she didn't know squat!

Atheling20 Aug 2019 9:58 a.m. PST

If you can get a hold of Kevin Dallimore's Painting and Modelling Guide by Foundry Books there's a great article on how to paint ***very*** effective horse markings.

The book is a goldmine as far as miniature painting goes so I would recommend that you buy it anyway! lol

There are some great sample pages on this site from his Masterclass book showing how to paint horse markings:


Kind Regards

aynsley68322 Aug 2019 8:51 a.m. PST

I'm not sure Kevin Dllimore's book is still available. I got both books years ago, and yes they are great to get going. I've seen them on ebay occasionally though.

I believe foundry has some of the painting tips online now, but not the horse painting section. I seem to remember the site has painting a Spartan, legionnaire and a few other things. It's under downloads on the main foundry page-again didn't see the horse section on the list.

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