The Waving Flag: Painting 15 mm White Horses

Thursday 30 September 2021

Painting 15 mm White Horses

Painting white horses is an important technique for every wargamer to master because we all know that throughout history all important leaders "always" rode a white horse.

How every leader should look!

My last post was all about using the strengths and weaknesses of craft paints when painting 15 mm wargames figures.  In this post I'd like to cover how I use non-hobby paints to paint white horses.

Against a black background for added contrast

I've been developing a foolproof method for some time because:

  • Not all white paint covers in one coat and craft & tube acrylics can be especially bad in this respect.
  • A simple unshaded coat of white looks awful; you might get away with one coat of brown but you can't with white.
  • White is a really strong colour showing any imperfections immediately making it really important to have definite edges and subtle shading.
  • Using a black undercoat amplifies the contrast around blocks of white paint, which is great, but easily looks awful within the blocks.  "Internal shading" with black is very unforgiving.

Through trial & error I've developed the following process:

  1. Define the areas of the horse to be painted white with a mid to light grey.  This is easier to cover than black and lessens the contrast when it's left as shading.   The actual shade of grey isn't crucial and I tend to err on the side of it being slightly too dark as this is more easily corrected (see step 6).
  2. Using cheap craft or tube acrylic white, apply one coat of dilute paint to define the muscles and joints of the horse.  The diluted paint should not be too thin & viscous enough to hold an edge.  Don't worry about coverage at this stage or about leaving a touch too much grey showing.  Think of this stage as creating a rough guide.
  3. Using the same dilute paint apply a second coat.  This time you are aiming to do two things: firstly increase the opacity of the first coat and secondly broaden the white areas and reduce the amount of grey undercoat showing.
  4. This should result in a horse that has defined muscles & joints outlined in grey with good coverage in the centre, some coverage at the edges and the grey shading should now look subtle (not like a butcher's cutting digram).  If it doesn't repeat the previous step until it does.
  5. Next thin and apply some Vallejo white.  You don't need to cover all the white just the main parts (so it's step 2 not 3 or 4).  This is to ensure a rock solid layer of white in the centre.  This could be achieved with more coats of the craft or tube paint but one coat of Vallejo (or similar) is much quicker.
  6. The very last step requires a very dilute white craft paint.  This is overlaid on any remaining internal areas of grey undercoat that look too stark: an overall wash is unnecessary.  This is a great way to blend everything together.  Using paint that is too thin is best as you can always add more.

Now you may think this is a lengthy process; even one that you can't be bothered to attempt.  However, once you've done it a few times it is remarkably quick because you only have to think about one thing with each step.  This results in a certain freedom and is therefore quicker than it first appears.  To illustrate this let me describe the process as follows:

  1. Block paint using a grey undercoat.
  2. Loosely define the areas to be white; do not worry about their edges.
  3. Extend each white block to reduce the grey shaded areas & add depth.
  4. Repeat until happy with the amount of grey shading remaining.
  5. Add depth to each white area without worrying about their edges.
  6. Blend any grey areas that appear too stark.

Viewed this way I hope it's easier to see that each step has one purpose and one only: only step three requires great brush control.  Therein lies the simplicity and inherent speed.

The annotations shows how the various effects were created.

The outcome of all this should be a minimum of five layers of colour; from the grey base coat (1), through an overlaid grey (6), to at least three layers of white (2, 3, 4, 5). This results in a striking white horse with clearly visible, yet subtle, shading.

1 comment :

Greg Kelleher said...

Thanks for posting this particular technique. It certainly results in a very subtle finish.

Salute The Flag

If you'd like to support this blog why not leave a comment, or buy me a beer!

Salute The Flag