Speed Painting Horses

From talking to most wargaming friends its pretty obvious that one of our most common complaints or difficulties is actually getting units finished and painted so they can be used on the wargames table. Sometimes there is added pressure to complete a unit for a particular game for example but in the main what I hear mostly is the pressure to make inroads into reducing the size of that all too big leadpile.

This is commonly accompanied by groans about and complaints of how much time actually completing a unit takes. We complain of how glacial the pace of painting seems to be, coupled with the difficulty of turning a unit out with a respectable enough paint job given the quality of painted examples that we see on the internet today.

When that desired unit is a mounted one, some wargamers are even more reticent because of the additional time needed and the added discipline of painting  horseflesh to a good standard

With this is mind I wrote an article on speed painting horses for Miniature Wargames a few years ago which Henry Hyde the editor kindly published. So a few weeks ago when I decided I would paint a batch of 15mm Napoleonic cavalry I thought I would write another guide and post it here.

I’ve always found painting horses enjoyable and tend to paint them in large numbers when I do and on this occasion my original plan was to paint 3 regiments of Prussian Cavalry each of 24 figures – these consisted a regiment of dragoons, one of Hussars and a Landwehr  cavalry regiment. The figures themselves are of course 15mm AB figures from Eureka Miniatures sculpted by Tony Barton. I really do enjoy painting AB figures, the sculpts are so nice and seem to suit my painting style and the castings by Eureka have the barest minimum of flash.

I glued the horses to old bottle tops with PVA but then I thought what the hell, I just as well paint all my remaining AB cavalry and so added a few Prussian command figures, 12 of the new Imperial Guard Mamelukes and finally the French ADC set that Nic at Eureka kindly sent me as a present with my last birthday order – thanks again Nic!

I paint in large numbers because I find it quicker but most importantly to me its allows me to vary the individual horse colours quite considerably. I prefer the varied look this produces despite the fact that regulations in some armies of the time stipulated certain horse colours for particular regiments or squadrons. I’ve taken wargamers licence and ignored this. The second thing that I decided was that I wouldn’t paint many black horses as these weren’t heavy cavalry so I aimed for a range of browns.

As usual after washing the figures and preparing the figures I undercoat them with Humbrol Black enamel diluted with white spirit. When dry and ready I decided to chose a few basic colours to use as a basecoat to which I would add others in order to produce the colour variation in subsequent layers. I took the first few pictures and then unexpectedly at this point I thought I’d add some 28mm Horses as the technique used works for 28mm figures as well with the advantage that  the pictures might be clearer at the larger scale. To this end I’ve added some horses from Perry Miniatures – Russian Napoleonic Hussars to be precise

Step 1 – Get paint on the horse

As you can see from the size of the brush used, this is a coarse procedure with absolutely no finesse whatsoever. The idea is not to actually attempt to paint the horse accurately but rather just to get some paint on the horse or covering the horse. Use a side to side motion using a light flick of your wrist, just like when dry brushing, taking no notice of any detail. It doesn’t matter where you get the paint, the mane, tail, tack, its OK, the aim is to be quick, first covering one side then the other and then finally stab the horse a few times with a little paint on the brush to get at any crevices and the underside.

Hence its quick, I’m using a large brush with dilute paint in a side to side flicking motion – this is what makes it quick rather than trying to accurately use a fine brush to paint only the horse flesh, avoiding tack etc as one might ordinarily paint – that’s too time consuming and isn’t necessary. The results might look awful now but as we go on in the same manner the shading and quality comes. Agreed it won’t result in a prize in any painting competition but it will result in decent units on the table in a fraction of the time it would take with a more measured, accurate and usual painting technique.

I’ve used a range of basecoats, GW Mournfang brown (used to be bestial brown), Vallejo leather brown (from the Game colour range), VJ Cavalry Brown, VJ Flat brown and finally a dark VJ German Cammo Black Brown. I pick a random number of horses from each regiment and paint them all in one go, the different regiments are on different coloured or coded bottle tops. Doing this to each horse takes no more than 30 seconds

As I said the result looks pretty poor at this stage with relatively poor coverage and a bit of a mess!

Step 2 – Variation

As you will see in the pictures below a number of lighter colours are now added. Again this is done with a large brush, but this time with the paint only at the tip of the brush. Again a non accurate dry brushing flicking technique is used with the emphasis on speed. The paint should be thicker than used for the basecoat and mainly rubbed off on the worktop cover. The aim is just to get a little lighter paint on the raised or more prominent surfaces of the horse.

I suppose you could use triad paint systems for this, I don’t, I used a range of lighter colours as in the pictures. This painter on youtube has some interesting and helpful combinations but I didn’t follow these.


He also applies the paint accurately which is the opposite to what I’m advocating, his results are excellent but my main aim is speed. Again take a few horses from each regiment and a apply the second coats.

Here are a couple of combinations

Mournfang Brown with added orange, desert yellow and scrofulous brown

Leather Brown with desert yellow, Buff and pale sand for Palomino type horse.Dark browns are varied by adding the yellow, orange and cavalry brown. Cavalry brown is varied by adding red, orange and yellow. Black horses can also be lightened in this way with very small amounts of darker browns. At this point a range of Bays, chestnuts etc are beginning to appear. Again even more variation can be added by applying more or less of the lightening colour

Step 3 A dilute wash

I said there was little point in being accurate with the application of paint as the next step covers up any poorly covered areas. Generally I use a black wash – Army Painter Dark Tone as its no longer possible to get GW Badab Black which I thought was much better than their current washes as these are not easy to dilute.

Yes I agree looks even messier now and you go from this

to this!

Step 4- Second Highlight

Once the wash has dried repeat the second highlight step but this time with even less paint on the brush and a lighter flicking action barely making contact withe the surface of the horse. Now they’re beginning to look presentable

Step 5 – The time consuming step – painting tack, mane and tail and hooves. and now they are looking presentable at last. I cannot think of a way of speeding this up as the painting needs to be accurate, at least on the tack

(Stupidity confession moment – I decided to paint the shabraque on the 28mm horses to make the pictures appear a little better- unfortunately I forgot I was painting Hussars and applied a green colour thinking they were my mounted Jager horses! I will have to repaint them red)

There’s quite a bit of variation by now

Step 6- A bottom wash

This is the penultimate step and is essentially another black wash but just applied below the knees of the horses. Sometimes I use a dilute black paint rather than a wash for this. It has the advantage of producing dark lower legs which I think look good and is useful for cutting down on the need for painting white lower leg markings. At this stage I do give the same wash to the occasional horses mane and tail in the interest of yet more variety

Step 7 – The Final step – paint any individual markings including those on the face, the nose and the fetlocks if desired but most have already been adequately painted by the preceding step

So the end result and variations……

Starting with Mournfang Brown

With Leather Brown

Dark or Flat Brown

Cavalry Brown

And finally a group photo!

The colour variations are probably easier to see if you expand the pictures.

So, there we are, quick and easy. The emphasis is on speed using a dry-brushing technique

I got through 24 28mm horses and 101 15mm Horses in just a few sessions. I took the first pictures on the 21/11/18 and finished painting yesterday 1/12/18. I wish now I’d logged the exact number of hours

So now I’m off to paint some riders………………


Posted in 15mm Napoleonics, 28mm Napoleonics | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

ABC or Another Bloody Castle

Today we start the first leg of the journey home with a journey to Nottingham. This will entail a stop off at the Partizan show tomorrow and hopefully a visit to Warlord Games and Wargames Foundry on Monday. (oops update – this was true when I started writing this post a few months ago!) I promise not to visit any more castles because I’ve already seen plenty on the trip so far.

I’ve always wanted a castle – not a real one – just one for the wargames table and I keep on looking at those on offer from various manufacturers. I quite fancy something to use with my Crusade figures in 28mm and also the odd tower or keep for smaller scales. I remember re fighting the battle of Castalla  – a Napoleonic battle in Spain and bemoaning the fact that I did not have a suitable castle to put on the battlefield. Some time ago I made a decision to build my own, but like many things it never seems to get near the top of the “to do” list.

With this in mind I thought I’d get some ideas on what to build by taking some pictures whilst we were on our Cruise of the Rhine and Moselle. The banks of both rivers are littered by castles along their course. These are in various states of repair, with many having the building stone looted for other buildings by the locals. In the middle ages these served as bases for the local warlords, barons and bishoprics allowing them to control tracts of land and were often the bases of the “Robber Barons”. Many changed hands in the local wars but what I think was most surprising is how close together they were built. I remember one portion where I could see 3 castles on the same bank and all in a distance of less than 10 km. Each would of course have had a different owner and not necessarily be on friendly terms with their neighbours.

We started our trip in Amsterdam and used some free time to visit Muiderslot Castle just a short train ride outside the city https://www.muiderslot.nl/en/ . Steeped in Dutch history, and built by Count Floris V in 1280 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muiden_Castle, this was one of the most pleasing that we saw from an aesthetic perspective and a real source of inspiration for a future scratch build.

As we moved down the lower Rhine Valley we came across innumerable other castles but irrespective of their state of repair I quite happily snapped away.

There were some interesting variations with the one on the left in the picture below having been converted to an hotel whilst the one on the lower right is actually not a castle

Its the entrance to a railway tunnel, the guide advised that these were constructed at tunnel entries during WWII in order to confuse or mislead allied bomber pilots whose orders were not to unnecessarily damage historical buildings!

Along the river banks a range of towers can also be found that initially served as toll gates

Many like the one above now serve as radar stations ensuring safe navigation for the abundant shipping

Bored with castles yet?

OK lets have a change

The first picture is an unfinished cathedral and the green guy? Well that’s old Blucher himself – a monument erected in his honour for kicking out the French in 1814 we were told.

Apologies, but were back to castles again but at least these are the really cool ones

Had enough, this is a beauty that unfolds as you sail past it – this is Rudesheim Castle

Now here’s a test to see if you are still awake

Which of the following is not a castle?

Just checking……. neither!

You don’t want me to show you pictures of churches just for a change do you? I thought not.

I’d hate you to think that I spent all my time looking at castles – after all we did look at and stop at some local towns such as Rudesheim, Cochem and Bernkastel. In Rudesheim there is a cable car that takes you to up the side of the hill  to the Niederwald monument commemorating the unification of the German states under Bismark and built between 1870 and 1880 after  the Franco-Prussian war

I suppose I’d best be getting back to Castles………………

For what its worth I wrote the above in May, its now November so perhaps not surprisingly I’ve forgotten much of the detail that I was told about the various castles. This next overlooks the town of Cochem – https://www.reichsburg-cochem.de/home.html?&L=1

One of the things I do recall is being told that this one had been used as a camp for Hitler Youth training in WWII

The castles themselves are daunting, the view from the top shows how commanding they must have been. What remains of the town walls or gate towers are impressive enough and the old town buildings themselves that they protected really are wonderful


I was also interested to see this plaque on one of the walls and recognise the coat of arms depicted as being pretty much similar to that one one of my Swiss Landsknecht flags

I was interested to see the fountain depicting the bears, another common sight on banners

Getting fed up of ruined castles? Well here are a couple of older ruins from the old Roman city of Triere

Here’s the old Porta Nigra

I could go on forever posting pictures of some of the other beautiful buildings in Triere, particularly the churches but at  this rate I’ll never get around to finishing the post

With that in mind I’ll skip Luxembourg City, Paris and leave you with pictures of a castle back home in wales – Chepstow Castle, bit of a contrast to some of the finery in the Rhine castles but an equally tough nut to crack no doubt but hopefully another example to give thought and inspiration to a would be model castle builder!





Posted in Holidays, medieval | Tagged | 12 Comments

Lest we Forget

As I previously mentioned I’m currently on a Rhine river cruise and my next intention had been to make a post about castles – it seems only fair as I’ve seen so many!

However, we took an excursion today to Luxembourg City but to my surprise we stopped at the American Military Cemetery en route. My understanding from the local guide was that much of this was the consequence of the fighting in the Ardennes and nearby Bastogne

This was quite a sobering experience really, perhaps more so because it was an unexpected stop off with the guide announcing than this was also the resting place of General Patton

As you see from the attached pictures the place was immaculately kept with the entrance gates and imposing monument near the entrance setting the sombre scene. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that it wasn’t long before my eyes had filled up and that tears were rolling. I remember wondering if there were more graves than flowers on this Rhododendron

I’ve always intended to visit Normandy and assumed that I would visit a military cemetery with its long rows of crosses one day but this was totally unexpected. What had the greatest impact on my emotions that day was not so much the number of crosses but the variation in what units these men had served and where they all came from. The graves from men from various infantry divisions were mixed with those of armoured divisions, airborne troops and the USAF.

There were two large plaques that provided a tactical overview of the battle of Bastogne outlining clearly what units had been engaged along with another depicting the Normandy Landings.

I probably had a lot more understanding of the battle and Normandy Campaign than many others on the trip but thought that the provision of this information reflected the genuine care and meticulous approach that liberated European countries have towards the descendants of those men that gave their lives in both world wars.


The guide indicated that there had been some considerable fuss about where Patton was to be buried with some initial insistence that he be buried in a Cathedral befitting his rank. It now seems wholly appropriate that his own wish was fulfilled and that he is buried with those men under his command

Lest we forget

Posted in Holidays, WW2 | Tagged | 4 Comments

A Riot of Colour

Not quite what you might have been expecting I suppose, I just thought that I’d post a few pictures that I took at Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam a few days ago. The pictures above are from the surrounding tulip growers’ fields

I’m currently on holiday and this was the first part of a Rhine & Moselle river cruise with Avalon Waterways

The Kekenhof Garden is an annual flower show where various growers display their wares and was breathtaking so worth sharing I felt so here are a few more. Lets just say I was looking for inspiration in order to tackle some Landsknecht units

I suppose I’d better restore the balance as I suspect reading the title suggests that one might expect to see some brightly painted units. So here we are, I’ve dug a few out of the archives! Couldn’t find the most colourful of all my Landsknecht so I’ll keep looking though I know I have a fair few on my photobucket page

Next up will be about a million pictures of castles that I’ve seen in the past few days

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Perry and Warlord Russian Napoleonic infantry

It seems a bit strange to be posting pictures of my latest efforts from an hotel room in Amsterdam but its better than falling asleep.

We arrived here 2 days ago and the jet lag is quietly receding though I seem to have spent most of my time to date dodging speeding cyclists, so rather than have another nap this afternoon before dinner I thought I might compose another blog post. After a couple of glasses of red in a wine bar, a rather nice Grenache from France and a blended red from Stellenbosch in South Africa, I ask for your indulgence on any typing errors

Before we left NZ I’d planned to paint a battalion each of some plastic Napoleonic 28mm Russian Napoleonic infantry. Part of the reason was to help me to decide as to which of the two manufacturers I would use to expand my collection. To date I have 3 boxes of Warlord’s figures, (enough for 4 battalions of 32 figures each as I’d bough some extra metal command) along with 2 boxes of the Perry Plastic boxes.

I enjoy painting but I’m a rather poor modeller I’m afraid.  I can’t say that I enjoyed trimming the sprues and glueing them together but in truth this is not at all onerous and well worth the cost saving with plastic compared to metal. Some people seem to delight in using this time with plastic figures as an opportunity to make all sorts of unique conversions but it holds nothing but frustration for me as I seem to glue everything to my fingers. So apart from confining myself to the odd turn or tilt of the head I just stuck them together using the 1812 kiwer and occasional forage cap.

Its this aspect rather than anything else about the figures that have already helped me make up my mind which I prefer already – The Warlord Command figures are metal and I really did not enjoy putting the metal figures together – I found the arms did’t align too well with the shoulder straps on some officers but in all honesty it was the overall effort of getting epoxy and bluetack to behave that was the issue. It probably didn’t help that I was trying to stick a battery of their metal artillerymen together at the same time.

I undercoated the metal figures with black Humbrol enamel as I usually do (but after meting some Perry plastic French a few years ago trying the same) I used Vallejo black primer for the first time ever and I was pleased not only by the coverage, but also the short time  and ease in which this was done.

I completed the Perry Battalion first, choosing the summer uniform with white breeches.The figures were  blockpainted with VJ Russian Green tunics, pale sand breeches then tackling the black packs etc before finally being given a black wash and the highlighted as needed when dry. They probably took around 10 days to finish.

Next onto the Warlord figures doing exactly the same, except that I gave them black or winter gaiters so  I think these took marginally less time to finish.

These are slightly bigger as you can see in the first picture below with the Perry command on the left as you look at the picture and the Warlord Command on the right. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have a picture showing both battalions together from the front. In the second picture showing the backs, the Perry figures are on the right


Either way I enjoyed panting both, having no particular preference for either manufacturer and feel when finished they both look good.

The one drawback I think for me are the Warlord Command figures, the pose of the officers being almost hunched forward is less pleasing I think and in the end probably means that the bulk of the infantry when complete will end up being from the Perry range.

An additional drummer is present in this battalion because I used one from a metal command figures blister I’d bought

Both manufacturers deserve credit for the flags, the ones illustrated with the battalions came with each box.

For some reason I like my finished battalions to have additional officers and more than the one drummer that comes in each  box. I see that its possible to get additional command sprues separately, so I’ll go down that road and who know, rather than throw away the extra standard bearer this generates I might get out the knife and miliput or green stuff!

Posted in 28mm Napoleonics | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Over the hill

In many famous battles, topography or perhaps more specifically a ridge line was an important feature. I’ve always found this difficult to replicate on the tabletop principally because I’ve only had a series of hills that I could put together

To rectify this I decided that I would build a series of ridge boards that would be interchangeable and large enough to run down at least one side of a 12 foot table.

I put these together from some foam boards completing them in the same way as I did when I tarted up my TSS tiles a few years ago using PVA, sand and grit. The intention was they should match my baseboards, be easy to store and imposing enough  but contoured sufficiently to allow 15mm figure bases to stand without sliding of falling over

In order to make them interchangeable I marked the edge of each board with a template cut from MDF and then used an hot wire cutter and  blades to shape each one. I figured that there might be times when I wanted a ridge to end in the middle of a table so cut some end pieces and also varied the length of each board so I could vary the length of the ridge if I didn’t want it to occupy the whole table edge. The template result means that at least on their edges each board has the same depth which I suppose is a disadvantage and decided to make one end of the ridge a little steeper and the other edge a little more gentle

The boards were cut with some difficulty then covered in my usual PVA and grit mix and allowed to bake dry in the NZ sun! I added a few off cuts to some but have left others deliberately flat so I can stand additional hills on them. They vary in width from 20 to 70 cm

Once dry these were painted brown with a cheap acrylic paint mix and then dry brushed so they matched the base boards and my figure bases. When dry flock was added. The union between each board looks reasonable enough I think


I had a spare board or two and decided to make 2 special sections that would allow me to run these into some TSS low hill sections that I have so I cut a template from these to match.

Finally once I’d finished I felt that my ridge was too uniform in depth. Consequently I’ve since built 2 more sections, one  is deeper than the rest to allow the template to start at the back of one side and end at the front of the other so I can use this to bring the ridge forward. The other is intended to act as a kind of pass through a ridge

Finally to complete my terrain board set up I’ve made a few base boards with a stream along with a 1/2 size river board and a stream running into a river board. All I have to do now is to get some realistic water to finish these off

I think I’ll play a game of General D’Armee next and see if I can get the British and their Spanish allies off that ridge!



Posted in 15mm Napoleonics, On the workbench, Wargaming Terrain | Tagged , | 7 Comments

15mm Napoleonics to start the New year – ABC or is it ADC?

Bit of a late start to 2018 I know

Yes it’s already February and there’s not been a blog post yet. I do have an excuse though…….

Please Sir but I’ve been busy, busy painting you see – yes 15mm Napoleonics.

It all started in the New Year when I have a bit of time off, I decided to tackle what was waiting in the 15mm Napoleonic lead pile. I felt I needed a break after completing 4 battalions of 28mm SYW Austrians

I started by painting all the horse flesh first, all 131 of them! Then onto the riders in units of 24 or 12. First out of the stalls came the AB Prussian Dragoons, followed by the Silesian and East Prussian Cuirassiers. I found the inspiration from Paul Alba’s blog http://napoleonicsinminiature.blogspot.co.nz/

Not only is his painting sublime but his photography is so clear. A real inspiration for 15mm Napoleonic fans. I wish I could manage such good photos

Next in line were some old Minifig French Cavalry that I first painted in 1983 but was so ashamed of that I dipped them in paint stripper a year or so ago and have only now got around to repainting

These were followed by the AB Prince of Orange Staff set and I happened to find some sample figs that Nic had sent me some time ago – Dutch Belgian Cuirassiers – a trooper and an officer – I found some spare AB horses and have morphed them into a command stand for my Minifig Dutch Belgians

An old figure of Davout has been sitting on a base somewhat forlorn for a bit so I added a 2 figures – a mounted officer and a chasseur to keep him company. Lets be honest his glasses look pretty awful and probably need a repaint!

Whilst rummaging around in the spares box I found some AB Guard drummers and a Guard Horse Grenadier standard bearer that I bought intending to try and create a band with mounted kettle drummers years ago whilst visiting Eureka in Melbourne.

Deciding after all that time that it isn’t really going to happen I gave them a lick of paint and added an ADC from the new AB French ADC pack http://abfigures.com/command/1432-mounted-adcs-in-action.html

Here’s the result, I just need a standard now to finish the base off – Napoleon having sent off an ADC to get the drummers to knock up a tune to send the troops forward


These ADC figures are superb and I left these until last. I doubt that I have ever enjoyed painting a set of figures as much as I enjoyed painting these. Tony Barton is a genius!

Here they are as best as I can show them off with photos taken out in the sunshine before basing rather than in the wargames room

I added 2 to accompany an old and lonely figure of General Lasalle and another to accompany a spare French Line Lancer figure and the remaining 4 in  two pairs

They probably look better when leading scurrying around and leading troops forward though! The last picture illustrates some of my older AB French Command by the way

I hope anyone painting these gets as much enjoyment from them as I did

Hopefully the next blog post is not too far away – a Waterloo like ridge


Posted in 15mm Napoleonics, AB 15mm Napoleonics, On the workbench | Tagged | 11 Comments