Etching face and leg markings is one of the quickest (and easiest!) ways to give a model a new look. You can turn a star into a blaze, add a sock, or turn socks into stockings. You can even etch markings to make a model look like your own horse!
Regardless of what you’re etching, the basic principle is the same: just use a hobby knife to carefully scrape away the factory paint in the areas you want to be white. This is pretty straightforward on white patterns such as pinto and appaloosa, but there are few things you need to keep in mind when etching face and leg markings.
Etching Face Markings
A white marking that extends onto a horse’s muzzle will have a pinkish tone, as the coat is thinner in that area. Depending on exactly what kind of face marking you add to your horse, you may or may not need to paint the muzzle to mimic this. If the white extends onto the muzzle, also think about whether or not you want your model to have “kissy spots” – colored spots in the white areas of the muzzle. If so, you can either etch around them now or paint them on later. Either way is fine, so it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Another decision you have to make when etching face and leg markings is whether or not you want to add mapping (the lighter area seen around a white marking). To do this on a model, simply etch a series of tiny lines around the marking to give it a softer edge.
|Etching a more extensive stripe on a Classics Man O’ War.||Adding mapping to an etched face marking.|
Etching Leg Markings
When you’re etching leg markings, hoof color is something you want to keep in mind. On most horses, white leg markings mean the hoof will be light (a tan color), while colored legs mean the hoof will be dark (usually a gray color). If the sock has ermine spots (colored spots near the coronet), it will have dark stripes in those areas. When etching, you want to mimic this so your model has a more realistic look.
If you’re simply adding on to existing white leg markings, you can just etch away the paint to turn that sock into a stocking and you’re done. If you’re adding white markings to a leg that was originally solid-colored, you’ll want to repaint the hoof to match. If you want any ermine on your model, be sure to etch around it when you’re doing the leg marking.
Etching a sock on a previously colored leg. Some artists prefer to use
the back of the blade (as seen here), but either side will work.
Regardless of whether you’re painting the muzzle or hooves, be sure to wash your model once you’re done etching to give the paint a better surface to stick to. Use soap and warm water, and let your model dry thoroughly before you begin painting. Most artists use acrylic paint for this purpose, and because it’s such a small area, you don’t have to worry about priming. For the best results, be sure to let the paint dry thoroughly between coats.
Painting the Muzzle
When painting the muzzle, use a warm pinkish-tan color. You want the color to be most noticeable at the front of the muzzle, and blend it out towards the white face marking. You can do this by mixing your paint with white to lighten it as you go along, or simply applying less paint in those areas. It may take a few coats to get it looking just right, but if you make a mistake you can simply wash the paint off and try again. If you didn’t etch around kissy spots and want to add them to your model, just use a bit of dark gray acrylic to paint them on once the pink is dry.
|Using pink acrylic paint to shade the muzzle
(note the small kissy spot in the middle).
Painting the Hooves
Light-colored paints don’t always cover well, so you may need to do several coats to turn a dark hoof into a light one. I usually use two shades of tan (one lighter, one darker) to give the hooves a bit of shading for a more realistic look. Paint the darker tan first, and then use the lighter tan to blend the color towards the bottom. If you’re doing a hoof that has stripes, paint the tan areas first and then add dark gray stripes on top once the tan is dry.
Using acrylic to repaint the hoof. This paint doesn't quite cover in one
layer, so a second coat will be needed.
Sealing the Paint
Once you have your model’s muzzle and hooves looking just the way you want them, be sure to seal any painted areas to protect the finish. For the hooves you can use brush-on acrylic sealers (in satin or glossy), but clear nail polish will also work. For muzzles, a brush-on matte clearcoat is a good choice. Let the clearcoat dry and enjoy your new, unique model!
|The finished etched stripe and repainted muzzle.||An etched sock with ermine, with matching
repainted and glossed striped hoof.