One of the most striking parts of an army is a fully painted cavalry unit. The problem with mounted figures is that the mount (which is a larger part of the model) is not the “star” of the show and needs to be muted in relation to the rider on top of it (even in the case of a Chaos Champion on a Juggernaut :-)). My philosophy to achieve this is to use the same paints between the different areas, either to base, shade or highlight, and to not highlight the whole mount too far (too close to pure white).
In this tutorial I am going to explain how to paint a few different basic horse types: The Chestnut, the Bay and the Paint. Future tutorials will cover other type of animal mounts and well as fantastic/magical creatures.
Each horse is cleaned assembled and mounted on a piece of cork for easy painting (these are craft corks, which are on the expensive side - but perfect for the task). All three of the horses have pre-drilled holes for the rider and for a sword that is mounted on the back (only visible on the Bay). I recommend leaving the rider off and to paint the rider and the horse separately.
Note: In the description below you can substitute the Natural Leather/Kalliene Yellow (from Rackham paints) mix with a mix of Rucksack Tan/Bloodstone/Boostrap Leather (from P3 paints).
Start by giving all the skin a base coat of an equal mix of Natural Leather (Rackham) and Kallienne Yellow (Rackham). The armor is given a base coat of Greatcoat gray (P3), the leather parts Gun Corps Brown (P3) and the mane and tail are covered in Hammerfall Khaki (P3) mixed with a dot of Moldy Ocre (P3).
Mix Umbral Umber (P3) with the base coats for both the skin and the mane/tail to shade both areas. When shading the mane first wash the whole area with just a little Umbral Umber in the mix and then progressively add more into the deeper areas of the model. For the darkest areas add a tiny bit of armor wash (this will help with the flow of the paint as well). The armor is first given a wash of Badab Black (GW) to define all the details and bolts and then shaded with Greatcoat Gray/Thamar Black (P3). Since I want a stark contrast between the light/dark for the NMM the shade is brought down to a pure black. All the leather areas are washed with Devlan Mud (GW) and the hoofs with Ogryn Flesh (GW).
Before you start highlighting pick out any strands of hair that has gotten too dark and reclaim any of the skin that is too dark. Highlight the skin with Menoth White Base (P3), focus on getting the muscles defined, a horse is a powerful animal and that should show. Highlight the mane/tail first with a 50/50 mix of Moldy Ocre/HammerFall Khaki. Mix more and more Menoth White Base into this, finally mix in a little Morrow White (P3) for the parts where the light catches the hair. The armor is highlighted first with Underbelly Blue (P3) then Morrow White. All the leather areas are highlighted with a mix of Rucksack Tan and Gun Corps Brown, I don’t highlight these too much because I want there to be a clear difference between the different materials on the model and I want the leather to be a little worn.
For the final details the horse is mounted on it’s base, mud is added to the hoofs and in this case I felt like the skin had gotten a little too “pink” for a chestnut so I washed all the skin areas but the face with a really thin mix of the base color and Khador Red Highlight (P3).
Note: To keep continuity I have painted the Leather and Armor areas the same way for all three horses, this helps keeping the unit coherent even thought the horses differ. So for the horses below I am only describing the differing areas of the model.
Basecoat all the skin areas with Battlefield Brown (P3) and the mane with a 50/50 mix of Coal Black (P3) and Bastion Gray (P3).
The skin is shaded by progressively adding more and more Armor Wash (P3) to the base coat, mixing a paint with a wash like this thins the paint and helps with both the blending and the flow. When shading like this it is important to do small steps at a time and let each coat dry before adding another - this makes the blending very smooth. The mane is given a wash of Badab Black and then the deepest recesses are filled with pure thinned down Thamar Black (which results in a deeper black than what is achieved with a wash).
The mane/tail is highlighted with Menoth White highlight and the skin is highlighted first with a mix of the base coat and Bastion Gray and then with a little bit of Trollblood Highlight (P3) for the lightest areas.
For the details on the Bay I spent a lot of time cleaning up the mane/tail. The problem with using washes is that even though they dry matte it is hard to make out fine details in intricate shapes such as hair. Once I had brushed on the first layer a varnish a lot of my mistakes became apparent and I had to go back and clean them up before adding the next layer of varnish.
The darkest areas of the skin are given a base coat of Battlefield Brown. For the lighter color I want a little shine, so I want there to be a cooler base shining through the warmer highlight and shade. To achieve this I base the white areas with Menoth White Highlight (P3) with a little Underbelly Blue in it. When you paint these two areas there is no need to be precise since a few errors can add to the realism of the pattern - you will have plenty of opportunities to clean the areas up in the steps below as well. The mane/tail is given a base of 50/50 Umbral Umber and Idrian Flesh.
The warmth needs to be brought into the lighter areas of the skin so they are shaded with a mix of the base coat and first a drop of Bloodstone (P3) and then with drop of Idrian Flesh (P3). The darkest areas of the skin are shaded in the same way as the skin of the Bay horse. The mane/tail is shaded with a mix of Badab Black/Devlan Mud.
Tip: When mixing any kind of washes/inks out of a pot, use a dropper for more control over the amounts mixed.
Highlight the light areas of the skin with first Menoth White Highlight then pure Morrow White. Highlight the dark areas of the skin by adding Idrian Flesh to the base coat. Pick out the strands of the mane and tail with Idrian Flesh, then highlight by adding first Ember Orange (P3) then Menoth White Highlight to Idrian Flesh. The muzzle is highlighted first with Idrian Flesh, then with Midlund Flesh (P3) and finally with Ryn Flesh (P3).
Just as with the Bay I had to go back and make sure to fix the mane and tail and also clean up some of the blending on the armor.
Painting the muzzle
The horse’s muzzle (or mouth area) is a lot lighter than the rest of the face and body. Depending on which type of horse it is this area of the body takes on a different range of colors. Generally they are all lighter than the base color of the horse’s skin. When highlighting the muzzle start by blending a lighter shade onto the whole front of the face. Then as you are adding more and more light to the color, focus your highlighting around the nostrils and the lips.
Painting the muscle
Horses are powerful animals so when painting their muscles make sure to accentuate two things - motion and shape. You can achieve motion by adding extra shadows to the muscles working. Shape can be added by making sure that the roundness of the muscle is very well defined.
Painting the mane and tail
The mane and the tail should be where you have the most fun - hair doesn’t really behave in a straight order. The key is just to try and pick out the different strands of hair and pick where the light hits - hence where the light will catch the hair. A good place to start is to highlight the top of bends and the end of each strand.
Painting horses is fun and if you leave the riders off it is pretty simple since all the main areas are generally easy to reach. Because cavalry units tend to be pretty expensive (both in terms of points and in $$$) I think you should all invest the time in painting yours up!
Guess I need to work on my “hero” pose a little