The goal of customizing is to create the most realistic model possible. Paying close attention to the nuances of the different colors and patterns can make a painted model more convincing. Here are a few tips that can increase the accuracy of your finish work.
Cremellos and perlinos are sometimes called blue-eyed creams, but their eyes are not the same shade of blue as a pinto. Compared to the vivid blue eyes of a splashed white overo, the eye of a cremello is going to be paler and warmer in tone, and may even have streaks of brown or tan.
In comparison to the true blue eye on a splashed white pinto (left), the eye of the cremello (right) looks paler and has a slight greenish cast.
The pupil of a horse’s eye is not round like a dog or slitted like a cat, but slotted like a goat. The pupil is oriented horizontally, so care should be taken on models that are tossing or twisting their heads that the pupil still lines up with the horizon. Be careful when painting the striations and irregular flecks of contrasting color common on light eyes that the basic shape of the pupil is not lost.
The angle of the pupils are quite noticeable on the amber eyes of this black silver dun.
Most artists know that grey horses are born a darker color that turns white over time. Some traits seen on grey horses, like dapples and fleabites, are not appropriate details to paint on a model of a young foal because the coat has not yet had time to change. This same rule applies to the appaloosa pattern known as varnish roan, which is also progressive.
This Walkaloosa mare was born black with a spotted blanket, and developed her roaning later. Her blanket and spots will not change with age.
The roaning on this mare has progressed further
Most of the time, colored areas have dark skin while any white markings or patterns have pink skin. On some of the more intricate patterns, though, the skin and the coat to do not always match. Appaloosas and certain kinds of sabinos, for instance, often have dark skin or dark spots of skin under the white areas of their coat. This can change the overall tone of the white areas.
When he is wet (right), you can see the dark skin on this leopard appaloosa. Notice how the shading on his face is similar to that of a white grey.
The tint that comes from underlying pink or black skin is only visible when the coat is short enough to show it. Keep in mind that long winter coats will hide the color of the skin, so traits like haloing, ghost spotting and pinking inside the ears will disappear if the coat is so long that you can no longer see the skin. Think about why an area is tinted gray or pink before adding that color to a model with a textured coat.
In the area where this pinto pony was left unclipped - the crown outline on his hip - the mapping around his pattern has disappeared.
During the summer, the fine hair on the face is tinted by the color of the skin, particularly around the eyes and muzzle. In the winter the length of the coat changes the shading on the face, often accentuating the contrast between the lips and nostrils and the rest of the muzzle. Some colors are much darker in the winter or show more contrast than during the summer. To give the impression of a horse in winter coat, consider bumping up the contrast around the lips and avoid adding dark shading to the area behind nostrils.
The change in this sooty buckskin gelding from summer (top) to mid-winter (bottom) is quite dramatic.
Hooves on colored legs are primarily dark, while hooves on white legs are primarily shell-colored. If there are ermine spots along the coronet, then the hooves may be striped or even primarily dark if the spotting is particularly dense. For appaloosas, the colored legs have striped hooves, but legs with white markings have shell hooves just like a non-appaloosa. Few spot and snowcapped appaloosas are unique in that they have primarily shell-colored hooves even if they do not have white markings on the leg.
The colored leg on this appaloosa has a striped hoof, while the leg with the white coronet has a shell-colored hoof. Note that what looks like a wider band of shell coloring on the striped hoof is from a small white marking on the front of that foot.
Many colors and patterns have a distinctive effect on the mane and tail, particularly when it comes to whether the color is darkest at the roots or at the ends. The frosting on the mane of a dun, for instance, makes the ends of the mane appear darkest. A silver dilute, however, will have dark roots and the tips of the mane will appear lightest. This also applies to pinto and appaloosa patterns, because some patterns tend to leave color on the end of the tail while others turn the end white. Artists tend to favor darkening the ends of tails because it can create visual balance on a model, but that is not realistic for every color.
Flaxen manes with pale forelocks and dark roots are very typical of silver bays.
When a horse inherits both a pinto pattern and an appaloosa pattern, the appaloosa coloring replaces the colored areas of the pinto pattern. Appaloosa patterns do not put spots on the white areas of a pinto. There is a rare pattern known as belton that can add colored spots to the white areas of the coat, but it is not related to appaloosa spotting.
This pintaloosa mare has both the tobiano pinto pattern and the varnish roan appaloosa pattern. Notice that the white part of the tobiano pattern is unchanged.
This pony has both the tobiano pattern and the leopard appaloosa pattern. His leopard spots end abruptly where the white of the tobiano pattern begins.
When the coat is made of a mixture of white and black hairs, the result often looks quite blue. This is different from black hairs that have been diluted, which have a warmer tone that ranges from a pale taupe to a chocolate brown. Be careful not to make your grullas and black silvers look too blue. This is also important to remember when painting the legs of a bay silver. Because silver alters the black pigment on a bay horse, the legs should be chocolate and not black.
The mare to the right has a black coat that has been diluted by both silver and dun. Note that her coloring is very different from the red and black tones on her bay pasture mate, but unlike the black pintaloosa above, she does not look blue.