Most artists that etch use the technique to add pinto or appaloosa patterns to otherwise solid horses, but you can also use it to add other white patterns – such as roan. It may seem tedious to etch all those tiny hairs, but it’s actually easier than you think!
A Stablemates Paso Fino model etched to a bay roan.
To etch a roan, all you need is a hobby knife (or your preferred etching tool) and a model horse. Having a reference photo is helpful if you’re just starting out, but most roans are relatively similar so you may not need one if you’re familiar with the pattern. A horse hair growth chart is also helpful if you'd like your roan to be as realistic as possible - follow the look of these lines as you etch. You can find these illustrated charts with a simple internet search.
When choosing a model, keep in mind that roaning will have a more drastic effect on darker models than it will on lighter ones.
How to Etch Roaning
Rather than completely removing paint (like you would on a pinto, for example), when etching a roan you simply want to lighten the body color in the roaned areas. This is done by etching the pattern hair-by-hair, making lots of tiny lines in the paint to give it the appearance of being a lighter color. You can etch all the hairs in the same direction to make it easy, or you can follow the direction of hair growth (using the hair growth chart mentioned earlier) for a more realistic look. It’s easier to etch in the same direction, especially if it’s your first roan.
Etching a roan pattern. I’m using the back of the blade in this example, but you can use the front as well – try it both ways and see what works best for you.
Depending on how many lines you etch or how close together they are, you can control how light the roaned areas will appear. You can always etch more but you can’t put paint back on once you’ve removed it, so start light at first and etch away more color as you see fit.
Blending the Roaned Areas
Roaning lightens the main body color of a horse but the face, legs, mane, and tail remain their original color. To replicate this on your model, etch lighter lines and etch them farther apart as you near the legs and neck. This will let the color fade out gradually into the roaned areas.
A close-up of all the tiny lines that make up the roaned areas. Note how the lines gradually fade out into the colored areas.
Even though I’m etching a solid roan in this example, you can just as easily add the pattern to a pinto model. You could do this on an appaloosa as well, but it will be much harder to see the effect as appaloosa spots aren’t usually very big.
Once you’ve got your roan pattern looking just the way you want it, wash your model with soap and warm water to remove any loose flakes of paint. If you also added any face or leg markings, paint and clearcoat the muzzle and/or hooves if necessary. After that, let your model dry and enjoy your new roan!
The etched roan compared to the original model.
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