Realistic Horse Face Painting Design


Sometimes painters are a little intimidated by realistic face painting, thinking it will take too long to be practical for events. Actually, some realistic designs take approximately the same amount of time as the stylized versions and are almost as simple. Here’s an example of a realistic horse face painting design which can be done in a few simple steps.


Diamond FX black face paint
Diamond FX white face paint
TAG pearl black
Paradise black face paint
Paradise light brown face paint
Paradise dark brown face paint
#3 round brush
#1 round brush


1. Load a #3 round brush with Paradise brown face paint. I mixed my light and dark brown together for this, so I had a nice medium brown for the base.


2. Next complete the horse’s muzzle with Diamond FX white. I could have used a larger brush for this to speed things up, but I just happened to pick up the #3 round, which was readily available, so I kept on using it. Tap the area where the white meets the brown with your finger tip to smudge it slightly and soften the line.


The proportions and the shape of the muzzle are simple, but important, so take some time to practice this shape and examine photos of horses to help you become more proficient in creating the realistic details.

3. For the nice, chocolatey brown which I used for the mane, I stayed with the #3 brush and mixed some of my Paradise black into my dark brown. You could also use Diamond FX black for this, especially if you’re having trouble getting it to flow easily for the mane shape.


To create the mane, start at the ridge of the neck and sweep the brush away. To soften the line where the mane meets the neck of the horse, again tapped it gently with your finger tip to smudge it just a tiny bit and soften the line. Distinct lines in an image will draw the eye to them. That’s fine, but since we don’t want to direct the eye to the edge of the neck for this image, we’ll soften it.

4. Now it’s time to switch to the #1 brush for some detail. Pick up a little Diamond FX white on the tip of your brush and sweep it through the black main for highlighting purposes. Also create the shape on the neck which you might see as a marking on a paint horse.


5. Again use the #1 brush and pick up some of the Diamond FX black or even a bit of your brown/black mixture to make the eye shape and nostril. Now would be a good time to add some smaller pieces of mane falling down over the face with the #1 round brush, as well.


6. At this point, the nostril is too defined, so it’s best to bring in some grey, made with black and white, to blend it into the fur on the muzzle slightly while adding shadow to the bottom and front of the muzzle area. Use the #3 round brush for this. Also, use some of your Diamond FX white and the #1 round brush to make the base of some feather shapes tucked into the flowing main. Don’t forget to add a tiny speck of highlight in the horse’s eye while you’ve got the white on your small brush.


7. Load the #1 round brush with Diamond FX black to finish out the feathers in the main.


8. Your final step with the Diamond FX white on the #1 round brush is to make a tiny streak through the black area on each feather, establishing the shaft of the feather.


Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. She also writes for as the Chicago Face Painting Examiner.