How to Paint a Horse in Oil Paints


Oil paints work well with many styles of painting (including abstract, realism and impressionism), making them an ideal choice for animal portraits, whether you paint your own or one that you've come across in your travels. Many painters paint from a photograph; but you can look at other paintings of horses for inspiration or paint your own scenario, incorporating or deleting items from the landscape as you see fit. Utilize a combination of oil painting techniques to design your own oil painting of a horse.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas or oil paper
  • Easel
  • Oil paints
  • Brushes
  • Sketch out the backdrop of the scene, adding a horizon line and any large objects like buildings, fences and trees. Determine where the horse will be placed in relation to the backdrop.

  • Outline the shape of the horse in proportion to the rest of the scene. If using a photograph, keep it on hand as a reference point.

  • Begin layering in color to establish depth. Use a range of shades as opposed to using a flat brown or black. Layering the colors allows the patterns and textures of light and shadow to show in the painting. Shadowy colors like grey, blue, black and brown are a good starting point.

  • Play with different oil-painting techniques, including glazing, blending, gradation and underpainting, and decide which will work best for the vision you have of your painting.

  • Begin adding vibrant colors to flesh out the scene and give shape to the horse. Blend patches of red with tones of brown; use of blue to add depth to gray and black. Play with the color until you are satisfied. You can always test the results of layering before you begin painting with a test paper or canvas.

  • Finish the painting by adding in final details. Blend white into the colors to show your light source and to add fine detail. Either let the painting dry completely (overnight) and add finishing details on top or continue layering in detail until you are satisfied with the end result.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using a combination of wet and dry brushes will allow you to blend colors for different effects in places with a saturation of texture and color, such as the sky or leaves on trees.
  • Consider painting a series of horse pictures from a collection of photographs.
  • Paint in a well-ventilated area when using oil paints.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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