Painting Gray (Grey?) Hooves

Gray Hoof Color - Paint and Prismacolor Pencils
Gray Hoof Color – Paint and Prismacolor Pencils

It occurred to me that I really should start documenting my research and how I’m doing things so I’m not the only one learning from my failures! (Also it saves me a heck of a lot of time if I can pull out a ‘recipe’ for hooves instead of starting from scratch.)

Thus this post, which is not only a tutorial on the method I used, but also a collection of links and references on other folk’s methods.

Keep in mind I am not a LSQ (Live Show Quality) model horse painter –at least as far as I know– so while the results look fine to me, they may not hold up in a show ring.

Before we start, we need some good reference photos…

The Internet is for Hooves!

And now onto the painting… example hoof is from a Breyer G3 Belgian Stablemate, so it’s several times life-size.


Hoof Flat Gray
Hoof Flat Gray

Liquitex: Guesso, Burnt Umber, Neutral Gray

To paint gray hooves I use a multimedia approach. Most of the time I’m working in Stablemate (1:32) scale, but I used the same techniques when I did the Traditional (1:12) scale portrait horse and it still came out pretty well!

I start out with a wash of Neutral Gray and Burnt Umber (as you can see in the color swatches at the top of the post) done over a white hoof. I use a roughed up brush and work in both horizontal and vertical washes so the brush strokes help build up the striations.

You could probably also just do this as a solid color, the pencils and the pastels will most likely cover up any details. I just like the extra step.

Colored Pencils

Hoof Prismacolor Pencils
Hoof Prismacolor Pencils

Prismacolor: 941 Light Umber, 1056 Warm Grey 70%, 946 Dark Brown, 1050 Warm Grey 10% (or 964 Warm Grey Very Light), 1074 French Grey 70%

Then once that’s done, I go over the hoof horizontally and then vertically with the colored pencils, which add the growth rings and color variations seen in the real hooves. Depending on the horse the hooves can run pretty dark, so you’ll want to refer back to the reference photos.

The 1074 is almost the same color as the acrylic mixture, so I used that as my primary blending pencil to help tone down the contrast.

1056 is great for adding in darker lines, although depending on the hoof you are doing, you might want to pick an even darker color. You have to be careful not to overuse it since it can easily overpower the lighter color and it’s hard to brighten things without starting over.

The lightest color (1050 or 964) is used only for the growth ring at the very top of the hoof. You could use it in the banding as well, but it would really depend on your reference hoof.

The browns, 941 and 946 are used very lightly to warm up the hoof, you aren’t going to see actual brown stripes on a normal hoof, but the grays can sometimes come in too blue.


Hoof Pastels
Hoof Pastels

Sargent Art Earthtone Chalk Pastels: Black and the second brown down from the black (name?)

Once the pencil-work looks good, I go back in with a dark tan pastel lightly over the entire hoof. This will help blur the lines so they look softer. I put very little pastel on and then brushed most of it off again before sealing, we’re looking for just a smidgen of color.

I also go over the bottom edge of the hoof with black to help add some shading and depth to the hoof. Depending on how dark you want the hooves, you can skip this step.

If you happen to have dark gray pastels or pigments, those would also work well. (I’m a bit limited in my pastels so I ad-lib.)

How Other Folks Paint Gray Hooves

A good part of the research I did for the portrait horse was to gather all the various tutorials that exist on the web. This isn’t all of them, but it’s a pretty good collection! 🙂

Martha Bechtel

My name is Martha Bechtel and I write fantasy and science fiction stories, paint small model horses silly colors, cast resin and plaster magnets, code random code (and Wordpress plugins)... Come on in and join in the fun!

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