Friday, August 3, 2012

Hoof painting tutorial

Since we've already established that I am a frustrated finishwork artist, it should come as no surprise that, in addition to hoarding reference photos, I also collect painting tutorials.  Kimberley Smith posted this one on Model Horse Blab several weeks back and has graciously allowed me to republish it here.  Thanks, Kimberley!

How I Paint Detailed Grey Hooves

by Kimberley Smith

Last night I finished painting a few grey hooves. Although I'm always trying for better and better hooves, I think these hooves are my best yet. I thought it would be nice if I shared how I painted them. In short, I use a medium size rake brush with fine soft bristles, and layer colors back and forth until the hoof is perfect. I wrote up how I was layering the paint and took photos for a friend last night, as I was working on the hooves, so here it is. 

First Layer - Americana Neutral Grey - for the hoof base color.
From here on out, use the hairing (rake) brush. When using the hairing brush, water the paint down and get the brush plenty wet but just so it will lay down streaks of paint. Test the brush on a paper plate to see if the paint is loaded okay. 

Second layer - Americana Fawn with a little Honey Brown added to it. Vary the brush strokes. Brush downward.

**Matte Spray and let dry.** This is helpful because if you don't like how the paint lays on the third layer, you can wipe it off gently and try again. 
Third layer - Americana Neutral Grey with a tiny bit of black. Also add a little Americana Milk Chocolate in the mix. Brush downward.
Fourth Layer - Go back over the hoof with the same mix as layer 2.

Fifth Layer - Go back over the hoof with the 3rd layer color. 

The goal is to get very tiny varied dark grey and tannish stripes that also look blended. Hard crisp streaks are no good. Keep switching and layering the colors until your happy with the hoof. (Keep the paint thin - ink consistancy) Also, you don't have to keep cleaning the brush. You can wipe off most of the paint and go right into the other color after you pick up more water. Also, if you're quick enough, try layering the paint while the previous layer is still wet. It's then easier to blend the dark grey and tan stripes together for a softer look.  

When finished, coat with matte spray and let dry.
Final detailing stage - Mix a little Neutral Grey with Delta Ceramcoat Sandstone (or a light tan). Water the paint down quite a bit but don't have a lot on the brush. Gently streak the paint around the hoof (horizontal). And then vertical. Then last, go back over the hoof gently with the dark grey mix to break up the lines around the hoof a tiny bit and to darken the hoof back up. The light horizontal lines should show through the last layer of paint. 

After your hooves are finished use acryllics and pastels/earth pigments to finish the edges of the pastern. Also, I used a prismacolor white pencil every so lightly around the top of the hoof. 

Thanks again, Kimberley.  I intend to try your method myself in the very near future!


  1. Wonderful tutorial and beautiful hoof, Kim! Jennifer, I made tack as a teenager and made some Arabian costumes before I started selling my finishwork. What you said sounds just like me; even back then, I always would have called myself a finishwork artist (rather than a tack maker) too! With all of your talent, I'm confident that you will get to where you want to be with your finishwork. I think what you need is just to start working on it more! I don't know which medium you prefer, but if you like oils and don't have the book by Carol Williams, you should definitely find a copy. Once I got mine (back in the 90's) I started painting more and more.

  2. I do have a copy of Carol's book... somewhere.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I suspect it's on the shelf directly above all the unpainted resins. Hmmmm. Probably there's a message in that!

    The next three weeks are just crazy busy, but once the kids go back to school, I am planning a major studio overhaul. I have had such a problem with concentration this summer. I am really looking forward to having a consistent routine again!

  3. That hoof looks so real! Beautiful work. And thank you so much for sharing the tips!

  4. Very timely post--I just need to clear up some free time for model stuff again!