Painting a mounted figure

El Viejo Dragon's Alexander CG115
by Stephen Mallia


The objective of this tutorial is rather simple. The aim is to help anyone who is in the early stages of this wonderful hobby to improve his techniques and abilities. By means of numerous photos we will go through this journey together, from the preparation of the figure itself to the actual painting. I will not tackle the groundwork at this stage because the subject will be a part of a 7-figure diorama and, hopefully we will dedicate a chapter solely for that. Due to the fact that the painting tutorial will include 1 mounted figure and 6 foot figures I will try to give more importance to one particular subject at a time. In Part 1, I will handle the painting of the horse in more detail. The only drawback with this particular horse is the colour since it will be hard to show certain steps with such a dark colour.


A quick wash with warm water and soap will help remove any impurities left from the casting process. At this stage all the parts of the figure are examined for mold lines, air bubbles etc. No matter how good the casting is, the mold lines will always be present even though on some figures they are extremely hard to find. 

For this job you will definitely need some needle files, x-acto blade, fine sandpaper and fine steel wool. Clean the mold lines using the needle files and blade and when done give the figure a polish with the sandpaper and steel wool. Any other imperfections might need to be filled and sanded.


This horse is rearing so I needed to strengthen the hind legs for better support. The locating lugs at the bottom of the hind legs were sawn off and holes drilled through. Long, protruding pins were glued in with two-part epoxy. I find this a better solution because it produces a stronger bond than superglue (photo 2). The two horse halves were sanded and scribed on the inside for better grip. On one side, I drilled two holes and inserted two pieces of brass wire. On the other side I drilled two corresponding holes, slightly larger in diameter (photo 3).


Even here, two-part epoxy was used for a better bond. The two sides were held in place by clamps till the glue set. Neck area was glued next and the resulting gap filled and sanded. At this stage the tail and mane were attached (photo 5). After a quick check the horse was ready for priming. For this I use skull white by Citadel in spray can.


As I said, this horse had to be a very dark bay, nearly black. This leaves little room for highlights and shadows. The base mix needed here (as with other colours) had to be somewhere in between the highs and lows of the actual colour. I thin the paint for the basecoat at the ratio of 1:1. This gives enough covering power but is not so thick as to fill minute details. You would probably need between 3 or 4 coats for a good cover. The mix for this step was achieved by mixing 5 prts. AC26 + 1 prt. AC16 + 1 prt. AV 940 (photo 7 ).

Photo 7

This is very dark but can still receive shadows in pure black. Highlights were achieved by adding AC16 to the base mix. With dark colours I usually do one step of highlights. This because dark colours absorb less light.


The dilution rate here is between 4 or 5 parts water to 1 part paint. Any hard edges are softened with diluted base colour (photos 8 and 9 ).



The shadows are pure black but very diluted. Ideally, the ratio would be 8 or 9 to 1. Make sure to always remove the excess paint from the brush before applying it to the surface. If not it will run all over. The hooves were painted with a mix AV921 + AC26 and then detailed of variations of same mix (photo 10).  Hooves tend to be darker on dark coated animals. Brown and black were used to paint the eyes with only a hint of white visible (which is actually light grey) ( photo 11 ). 

A word of caution here. The whites in horses’ eyes are rarely visible except when the animal is in extreme poses or afraid. Since this one is rearing I suggested the tiniest hint. The lip area, nostrils and eyes were given a coat of gloss varnish. Instead, the entire horse coat was given a coat of diluted satin varnish to reproduce the natural sheen of the animal. This was done because it was painted in acrylics. If it was in oils the natural sheen of the oils would have been sufficient. The mane and tail were painted with the same mix but left to dry matt.


As for the figure I will, firstly, take you through the preparation process and then give you a description for the photos along with the relevant paint mixes. The preparation is common for the other figures too so I will not repeat it with other figures so as not to render this boring. The same procedure used on the horse was repeated on the figure regarding the removal of mold lines and imperfections.

On the saddle of the horse I drilled a hole (photos 12 and 13) which would later receive the pin inserted at the bottom of the figure (photo 14), under the tunic since the legs are moulded with the horse. Holes were drilled at the shoulders and the neck attachment points and pins glued to the corresponding parts i.e. neck and arms (photo 15).

With this done, I made another quick check for fit and the parts primed (except the sword). At this stage the figure was held temporarily in place so I could measure the exact length of the reins that needed to be cut from lead foil (photo 16).

Photo 17: This is what you get after the first coat of paint. It is surely not enough and the white undercoat is still visible.

Photo 18: The difference between this photo and the previous is very evident. Here the paint is covering the entire surface of the horse and work on the highlights can begin.


Photos 17 & 18

Photo 19: The first highlights are applied. Actually this is the first coat of highlights. The difference is that if I apply the second coat the colour would be lighter but since the horse is very dark I only applied one highlight colour. You can see that in some areas the transition is harsh. This will be softened up by washes with base colour.

Photo 20: Another view of some of the highlights. Here the transition between the colours starts to be softer. No shadows have been added yet.


Photos 19 & 20

Photo 21: Work on the eyes has started. Note that only a hint of the whites is visible. This was painted with light grey and not white paint as not to render the whites too stark.

Photo 21

Photos 22 and 23: The two sides of the girth strap. With reds I usually start with a very dark colour and work on the highlights.


Photos 22 & 23

Photos 24 to 28: Here we see the work done on the saddlecloth. The base colour is in the first photo which is followed by the first highlight. The next shows the lighter lower areas being applied in stages. The other pictures show the work started on the spots.

Photos 24 & 25

Photos 26, 27 & 28

Photos 29 and 30: The saddlecloth nearly complete. Some texture was added with paint since it was sculpted smooth and looked very shallow. Work on the trim has been started. The flesh base coat has been applied.

Photo 29

Photo 30

Photo 31: Trim nearly finished and flesh complete. A satin varnish coat needs to be applied to the flesh areas.

Photo 31

Photos 32 and 33: The base coat for the boots is applied. Again notice that it is still not well covered and another coat is needed. In photo 33 the boots are shown finished.

Photo 32

Photo 33

Photos 34 and 35: Close-ups of the face. The eyes are to be worked upon further with the addition of the catch light.


Photos 34 & 35

Photo 36: The scale armour was given an undercoat of flat black.

Photo 37: The first coat was a mixture of silver printers’ ink and mars black oil paint. This was left to dry before washes of black acrylic were applied.


Photos 36 & 37

Photos 38 to 41: These pictures show the painting of the tunic, straps and leather armour. Also the sword strap is painted at this stage.


Photos 38 & 39


Photos 40 & 41

Photo 42 and 43: The helmet was firstly undercoated in flat black. Then a mix of silver printers’ ink and mars black was applied and left to dry. The first shadows were applied with mars black oil and feathered in using a dry brush. This was left to dry and the second shadows laid in with acrylic black. Extreme highlights were picked with pure silver printers’ ink.


Photos 42 & 43

Photo 44 and 45: The sword was treated in a different manner. The bare metal was burnished using the tool pictured. Then it was given a coat of mars black oil paint. Using a tissue I removed all the oil paint leaving a used metal look on the sword blade. This was left to dry and then given a gloss varnish wash.

Photos 44 & 45 

Photos 46 to 50: The photos here show one of my approaches to painting white. No. 46 shows the base mix. Notice that this is darker than one would expect. The trick with white is to start darker and leave the pure white for the last highlights. No.47 shows the 1st highlight compared with the base colour. No.48 shows the last highlight compared with the 1st. No.49 shows the 1stshadow alongside the base colour while no.50 shows the last shadow beside the 1st shadow.


The Finished Figure

Copyright © El Greco Miniatures, 27/04/2006 - 2020
Figures provided courtesy of El Viejo Dragon Miniaturas.