Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to sculpt a braided mane

As an aficionado of hunter braided model horses, I have long admired Charlotte Donahue's customizing work. Her sculpted braids are absolutely to die for--beautifully accurate in both scale and style. In this tutorial, which was originally posted on Facebook, Charlotte shares her method for creating sculpted braids. Thanks, Charlotte!

How to Sculpt a Braided Mane

by Charlotte Donahue

Disclaimer...there are probably as many ways to do braids as there artists who do them... this is how I do them! This fellow is a dressage horse so he has a type of braids suitable for his discipline. Even though his head is turned to the left, I chose to put his braids on the right side of his neck. 

Here is the victim .. er .. uhhh.. candidate!
I took off all of his original mane and.....
resculpted his crest as if he was going to have a roached mane.
Next, I rolled some two part, self hardening epoxy, such as Aves Apoxy Sculpt, or Magic Sculpt, into a snake for his forelock and bridlepath. Notice the amount that I cut away from the snake hanging behind his left ear. That was completely removed as I worked.
I used a swab soaked in smoothing solution to flatten the snake to the top of his poll. Alcohol, acetone, water, smoothing solution, spit all work, although I don't recommend spit!
Then I used a Dremel wire brush to pull the "hairs" onto the bridlepath on each side, and poked it along the flattened place to simulate shaved hair. The trick to that little brush is keeping it clean. Be sure to get the uncured epoxy off as soon as possible.
An X-acto knife was used to make chevron cuts into the front forelock. This was then worked to look more like braided hair. It's still a bit rough right here.
Here is what it looks like from the side.
I added another snake of epoxy that stretched from the end of the bridlepath to the withers. I laid it to the right of the crest where the braids will be.
I pulled the epoxy over the crest to form the unbraided side. I left it half undone so you could see that I used the epoxy from the snake and just smoothed it over the crest.
This is what that will look like once it is completely smoothed over to the unbraided side.
I took my little brush thingie and pulled a hairline onto the new crest. At this stage, you need to look at the crest to check for lumps and bumps that shouldn't be there so they can be repaired before you continue.
This is what the snake now looks like on the right side of the neck. This will be where I make the braids.
I cut away the bottom of the snake to the length that I will need after I have smooshed and flattened the snake to the neck
I make these cuts to the snake to begin the formation of the braids. I do this by visually marking, but have also done it using pencil marks on the neck to show me where the braids should wind up.
I cut away as much of the epoxy as I need to make these little triangles. Keep in mind that if you cut away too much, just add some back .. no big deal.
Using my dull X-acto knife, I work these little pigtails until I get the size and shapes that I want. No need to hurry this part because the epoxy has a generous working time. You could do the whole mane, or part... whatever you are comfortable with. I like to do it all in one sitting. I have found that my style changes ever so much if I let there be a break in the time frame. So I make sure to choose a time when there will be no interruptions. This stage also requires quite a bit of manipulation. You can make it as detailed and precise as your skill level allows. 
The finished mane should look uniform with all the braids the same size and length. Taking a picture of them will also give you a view that your eye might not catch. 
The little do-dad at the withers is something that I always leave unbraided .. jus' cause.
Hunter style braids would be achieved in a similar fashion...just more of them! Here's a picture of some hunter type button braids on a custom that I did a while back.
Thanks again to Charlotte for allowing me to share her words and photos. If you're interested in seeing another method of creating dressage type braids, be sure to check out this tutorial on Laura Skillern's blog.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have a custom that's really close to being finished, but I could never finish her because she needs a braided mane and I just wasn't sure how to make them look good. This is so helpful!


  2. WOW! Those look completely awesome!

  3. Thanks for the tutorial! It helped me a lot :)