Old West

Painting American Indians – Part 3


Last installment I painted human flesh tones. Today, I paint horse flesh, & more particularly white horses & painted horses. I decided that out of my 30 member band of Comanche, that one third of them would be riding painted horses. The technique I use starts with a white horse, so I also decided that two of the horses would be white. That means I’ve got 12 horses to paint.

The basic technique I use is very, very similar to the technique Amanda Kear (Stronty Girl) used in her workbench article on The Miniatures Page: Painting Pintos. I’ve received email form some readers that use artist’s acrylic paint in tubes & she uses that kind of paint in her article. It is a very good technique.

In this installment, I’m going back to using a dry palette & will use craft paints. The only reason I’ve chosen to go back to the dry palette is to illustrate the amount of thinning & mixing done when using craft paints.

Craft paints, artist’s paints, & acrylic medium

Craft paints vary from brand to brand & it is sometimes difficult to determine the exact color from looking at the bottle & whether or not the paint is transparent or if it is opaque. You also don’t know how thick it is or how long it has been sitting on the shelf. The best things that craft paint has going for it is that it is inexpensive, there are many many colors, & it is more widely available.

When you purchase craft paints, go ahead & purchase bottles of acrylic thinner & flow extender as well. You could use water to thin acrylic paint, just make sure it is clean, clear water & not water from the jar where you clean your brush. In addition to good brushes, you should also have an eye dropper when first learning to mix paint. Experienced painters can merely use the brush to measure drops of water. I’m not there, yet.

Acrylic thinner & flow extender. It costs the same as a bottle of paint & is good to have.
The ordinary eye dropper. I think I got 3 for $1 a few years back. In the background is a ceramic palette, less than $5 & easy to clean.

The first step is to paint the horse white. I mixed 4 drops of Ceramcoat White, 1 drop Ceramcoat Gleam Pearl Finish, & 10 drops of acrylic thinner. The one drop of Pearl Finish is to give the horse’s coat a bit of a sheen. Some painters use oil paints on horses to achieve the same effect. I started with a ratio of 2 drops of thinner to each drop of paint or medium. What you are looking for is to have your paint reach a consistency like 2% milk. This is the main basecoat for the horses.

At the same time I mix a highlight color: 2 drops of Ceramcoat White, 2 drops of Americana Bleached Sand, 1 drop of Ceramcoat Gleam Pearl Finish, & 10 drops of acrylic thinner. The reason I mixed both of these colors is so that I can do some blending on the model. This highlight color will be applied around the edges of & upper part of large muscles. It is also the color I will use for the horse’s mane & tail. You could use an ivory color here. I didn’t have an off-white in a craft paint, so I had to mix one. You want a warm highlight here with a yellowish tint instead of cool highlight with a gray or blue tint.

Painting the horse white.

In some areas, I had to apply 2 coats to make sure that the gray primer didn’t show through. The advantage to using thin paint is that you can always add another coat, it is much much harder to remove paint from the model if it is too thick.

By the time I finished the 12th horse, I was ready for the next color. I mixed 4 drops of Ceramcoat Medium Flesh & 8 drops of acrylic thinner. I chose this flesh color because it has a pinkish or rosy tint to it. I used this paint for the muzzles of the horses. After finishing the muzzles, I added 1 drop of Apple Barrel Brown Oxide & 2 drops of acrylic thinner to the flesh color. I used this color for the hooves of the horses.

A white horse!

At this point, I’m finished with the basecoat for the 2 horses that will remain white & I’m ready to paint the splotches of color on the remaining 10 horses.

I chose 3 colors for 3 different types of pinto. One is a red brown, one is a mid-tone brown, & the third is black. Here are the recipes:

The red brown was 4 drops of Americana Russet, 1 drop of Pearl Finish, & 10 drops of acrylic thinner.

The mid-brown was 4 drops of Apple Barrel Brown Oxide, 1 drop of Pearl Finish & 10 drops of acrylic thinner.

The black was 2 drops of Folk Art Coffee Bean (a dark brown), 2 drops of Ceramcoat Black & 10 drops of acrylic thinner.

The colors used for the splotches on the horses.

A quick note about mixing colors. Some folks use an old brush for mixing paint. I’ve found that I tend to scoop up too much of the paint into the brush & not leave enough on the palette. To overcome this clumsiness, I use the handle of my brush to mix the paint & then wipe it clean after mixing. My paint gets mixed & I don’t suck up half of it into an old brush.

The splotches took 2 coats to cover & the mid-brown turned out to be so transparent that it took 4 coats in some places. If you are an unimaginative painter like me, you can google images of painted horses & use photos of real horses to guide you where to place the splotches. Here are the results:

Well, that does it for the basecoats of the pintos. The details, bridles, eyes, blankets, & painted symbols will be done later. Please do take a look at Amanda’s (Stronty Girl) techniques on The Miniatures Page. She always paints such wonderful horses.

I hope these installments are not too far apart. Unfortunately, the real world tends to limit the amount of time I get to paint & write. I was surprised at the number of readers who liked the really dark flesh tone. I settled on painting half of the remaining figures with the single color Khardic Flesh & for the remaining I used the Redstone triad with one slight change, I added one drop of tanned skin to each of the colors. Thank you for reading & let me know how you paint horses. Maybe there’s another way that we can learn. It is always good to have an array of different techniques.

2 thoughts on “Painting American Indians – Part 3”

  1. Wow! This topic just gets better and better. Not only do you share your painting technique, but also give a paint buying and mixing guide. I’m going to have to take a closer look at Delta Ceramcoat, I’ve been buying Anita’s, Americana, Folk Art and Liquitex. I’m also, when I get my thoughts together, post a link to this article on my blog. Awesome stuff.

    1. Thanks, Sean. The main thing that I wanted to get across is that “craft” paint & artist acrylics work just as well as Vallejo, Reaper, Games Workshop, etc. paints. The key to good results is getting the paint regardless of brand thin enough & still give good coverage. I was surprised when I read the label of the acrylic thinner that one of its uses was also to prepare paint for use in an airbrush.

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