Breyer Horse Customizing – How To: 4th of July Fun!

Today I wanted to do something a bit different. Fridays will become a regular “How-To” day to keep you busy with a project on the weekend, but for our first one I thought it would be appropriate to choose a patriotic project for the upcoming holiday! So today we’re going to focus on customizing a Breyer into a decorator!

The 4th of July means different things for everyone, but fireworks are a pretty common symbol. For this project I decided to choose the subject of a skyline (Boston in particular) with fireworks in the background. This project can be completed within a couple hours and is good for a beginner or intermediate hobbiest.

Supplies Needed:

  • Breyer Horse any horse will do but a traditional foal or a classic adult is a good size to work on.
  • Black spray primer.
  • Latex gloves (To keep your hands paint free).
  • Acrylic Paint , key colors to start with are Black, White, Brown, Red, Blue and Yellow. Most colors can be mixed from these colors.
  • Paint Brushes, Small sizes preferably, if small sizes aren’t available, toothpicks will help.
  • Paper Plates (For paint mixing).
  • Plastic knife or a painters knife.
  • Two small containers for water, one with plain water, and one with a squirt of either dish soap or paint brush soap.
  • Paper Towels.
  • Newspaper (To cover your surface).
  • Clear Spray Sealer.

The first step to customizing any Breyer horse is to first prepare the model with a coat of primer. This is called prepping. Paint will not stick to a Breyer horse without a coat of primer. Primer can be found in any hardware store or general stores like Walmart. I recommend Rustoleum brand.

For this project, I found a photo of the Boston skyline to work from, its always important to find a photo of some sort to work off of, whether it be a decorator or a realistic horse. The photo I chose showed a dark sky, so in this case, I decided to use black spray primer as my base coat. If I were to use white like I’d choose for most normal Breyer Horse customizing I would have to paint the entire horse black anyways, so using black primer instead saves a step. Using gloves, spray 1/2 of the horse as per the spray can’s instruction and let dry. After letting the first half dry go back and spray the other side. Be sure to get into all the crevices and to also keep the spray can 6-12 inches from the horse so that you don’t spray on too thick. The paint should always be kept very thin when priming. Also remember to spray in a well ventilated area.

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After the primer is dry on the horse its time to start getting your paint together. Be sure to let your primer dry fully; this can take some time depending on the humidity. For the picture I am using as reference, the sky is slightly yellow. Using a mix of brown and yellow mix the paint together until you get a color that matches the photo. Mixing with a painting knife is best, a plastic knife can work if you don’t have a painting knife. It is better to mix your paint with a knife instead of your brush because you will the the paint a more constant color and you also will waste less paint and cause less wear and tear on your brushes.

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After mixing the paint until you get a color which matches your reference photo you can begin to paint in the sky. The main body is where you need to start the horizon of your photograph. The horizon should be placed about 1/4 of an inch above the bottom point of the belly. Begin painting at the horizon line on the stomach and move up and over the body. You want the “Sky” to become darker as it moves up the body to create a realistic skyline. Here’s how it looks after the first layer.

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Once the first layer of acrylic is put on begin working your second layer in using larger brush strokes to blend it in. Your first layer will most likely be very streaky but working in the second layer with the longer brush strokes will help to even it out. Remember the top should be darker than the bottom and to work in 360 degrees around the horse. After the second layer of paint is on your horse should look something like this. You will want to let this layer dry fully before going onto the next step. If your second layer still leaves your paint streaky try a third layer and thin the paint a little bit with a few drops of water.

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The next area to work on is the buildings of the skyline. When you look closely at the photo that you are working from you will probably notice that while being silhouetted, the buildings are hit slightly by light, so they aren’t pure black like you might think. I chose a very dark purple due to this, while being dark it still was light enough to catch some light on the model. Begin painting with a very fine paintbrush, either a size 0 or 00. Start with tall thin rectangles and vary the size and width of them to create a realistic scene. Buildings are rarely the same size in real life. Once you have drawn the outlines for the buildings fill them in with the same color.

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After you have both sides of horse filled in with “Buildings” use a larger brush and a bit of black paint to blend in the buildings with the base color of the horse. Work in thin layers and pull the paint from the black into the purple. Be careful not to go outside of the “buildings” and to not put too much black in so that you loose the purple hue.

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Once all the buildings are filled in and shaded in with the base coat you’ll want to let the horse dry fully. While doing this you can begin to mix your paint for the “lights in the windows” I started a new paper plate for this because the project will now be working with lighter colors and this should help prevent mixing. I mixed a bright yellow along with white and a little dab of purple to get a realistic color that was bright but not blinding.

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Using the smallest brush possible (size 00) or a toothpick begin painting on your “Windows”. This is a good time to look at your reference photo and take a look at how windows are lit up. In most cases its very random as to how windows will look. Try to keep your dots as straight as possible so that the lights still look like rows of real windows in a building and remember to do both sides.
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After all your windows are painted you can begin painting on your “Fireworks” for this I used purple, green and blue as my colors. I first mixed the color with an equal part white paint to create a base color, after mixing I painted a few on each side of the horse, some of them poking out from the buildings, some on the horse’s side and back and a couple on the horses’ neck.

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After I had all of the fireworks painted in I began to go in with a darker color and do a bit of shading and detailing on the fireworks. Again the smallest brush possible is the best thing to use to get the fine details in. Paint some finer thin lines using the darker paint on top of the fireworks you have already painted. Doing this will make them look more three dimensional.

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Once the fireworks are painted, you might want to put some eye whites on the horse to make it look a little realistic. Using a little white paint paint one corner of each eye with a VERY thin line. This will make your horse look more like a “Horse”. You can also choose to leave them off to make him look more like a piece of art! Be sure to clean your brushes after finishing any project with water and either dish soap or paint brush soap. Taking care of your brushes is very important so that you have them for next time. Never allow your brushes to sit in a glass of water for an extended period of time. After that when your horse is dry spray it with a light coat of clear sealant and you have your very own patriotic pony!

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Happy 4th of July!

~ Stacy

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