This tip/tutorial was on my to-do list and someone else had requested it, so no doubt this will be useful! I use three colours when doing eyes; white, burnt umber (brown) and black. My eyes are very simple to do; hopefully I can put this in words just as easily! My model in this tutorial is my Breyer custom PAM model (who is also for sale!!.
The very first colour of the three that I use is the white. Not only does this form the basecoat for the paintwork of the eye detailing, but this first layer is also vital in getting the perfect colour needed for when the burnt umber is applied; applying burnt umber onto a darker area of paint doesn’t make the colour pop as it should. When the main horse’s colour is done, the area around the eyes is usually a dark grey/black and the white undercoat means that the burnt umber when applied is really bright in its colour. Try not to go over the edges of the eye but if you do and you can’t clean it up properly, don’t worry too much at this stage.
So once the white paint has dried (only one layer is really necessary) apply the burnt umber in a circle shape, but leaving a bit of white on either the left or right hand side of the iris. This is the horse’s eye white that is visible, although not many horses have this. I always have a bit as it just emphasises the horse’s mood, character, and shows where he is looking; to me, it gives the overall piece a bit more life!
Only one layer of the brown usually is enough, but sometimes if the eye is big (for example it is on a traditional model) I can add another layer of brown but it only covers half of the area before; if you draw a line from the horse’s tear duct to the other side of the eye, that splits your current brown patch in two. I tend to do a second layer of brown on the bottom half of this circle.
The black is the last layer to go on, only it isn’t applied as such. This is where a small paintbrush certainly comes in handy! The iris of the horse needs to be painted on as well as the extra detail that I add. If you look at a horse’s eye closely, you will see that it is brown and it gets darker again around the edges of the iris. With my brush, I draw a fine black line around the brown iris that I had created, which helps give this effect. This is also the stage to clear up and white paint that you may have got on the outside of the eye of the horse, as the black can be carefully applied as to tidy it all up, making it look neat.
If you haven’t got much experience with the angles of the horse’s pupil, I would gather references. It is hard to describe the angle, only images will help! It also comes naturally and gets better in time, I have painted so many eyes now that I just paint the iris on and don’t need to look at references necessarily for the right angle, so that is why I fail to explain!
Once the eyes are done (and everything else is done and the horse has been sealed) it is time to apply the gloss. The gloss really makes the eyes pop and they become increasingly realistic with the clear shiny layer. I use good quality clear nail varnish! If you are unable to get hold of gloss, however, it isn’t the end of the world, and likewise the brown paint doesn’t need to be ‘brown umber’ but that is just what I use. Experiment away!
With wall eyes, my technique is exactly the same only my advice here would be to make sure your blue is very nice and light, almost to a grey tinge. When you split the eye in half to add a deeper shade of blue, you can look at references and play around with the colouring a bit there, as blue eyes are very different on many horses. But my main advice would be to not use a pure, straight from the paint-tube blue, as it is the wrong colour. I know everyone says it (and I for one am TERRIBLE at using them) but references references references!!