Instructions for Creating the Colorful Horse Portrait 01


Rather than just filming this painting being created, I’m trying a new approach that takes one step at a time. With video tutorials, steps can go by quickly. With this approach, each step is completed before going onto the next step, no matter how much times it takes you to complete it.

[1] Select a Surface

Choose the surface you want to create this horse portrait. It could be canvas, pressed hardboard, paper, a wall, a barn door, glass, your sketchbook, whatever.

Colorful Horse Portrait 01
Colorful Horse Portrait 01

I used a 16 x 20 stretched canvas, but this portrait can be done in any size at all.

Read this article to learn how to enlarge or reduce any reference photo to match the surface you choose.

As you go through these instructions, take just one bite-sized section at a time. If you have only 30 minutes a day to devote to creating artwork, this project is perfect for you.

[2] Paint The Background
Canvas with warm 3 color background

Create a background for the horse portrait. I used a loose, streaky mixture of the white, yellow and burnt sienna.

You can create any background you want but be careful not to create a background that will overpower the horse.

You want the viewer’s eye to go straight to the horse and not to the background.

Chip Brush
Chip Brush

I dragged out some paint with a chip brush and applied the paint in vertical streaks. I was careful not to blend the colors too much. I wanted to create an interesting background but one that would not distract from the horse.

[3] Resize the Template

(If you don’t want to go through the steps of enlarging the template and printing it out, feel free to hand-sketch the outline of the portrait onto the canvas after the background has dried.)

Download this PDF file: Outline Template of Colorful Horse Portrait 01 that has the horse’s portrait.

Then follow the instructions on how to enlarge or reduce the template to fit the size of your painting surface. I enlarged the photo to fit a 16 x 20″ canvas. For that, I set the tile size to 300 and printed it out in landscape and with cut marks showing.

At first, these instructions may seem complicated so just take them one step at a time. If you need help, just contact me. If you learn this skill, you can enlarge or reduce and print any reference photo in the future. It’s a very handy skill for an artist to have!

However, if you prefer the grid method or if you don’t have a printer to print out the enlarged template, feel free to use any method you want to transfer the reference photo onto your painting surface.

If nothing else, you can just free-hand the drawing onto your painting surface. But whatever you do, don’t let this step stop you from creating this colorful horse portrait.

Print Out the Enlarged Template
Printed enlarged template pages
Printed enlarged template pages

Once the pages of the template are printed, lay them out in the correct order and measure from the nose to the right edge of the mane. Will the image fit your painting surface? If not, change the tile size and print out the pages again.

Trim and Tape the Pages Together

Then piece the pages together by cutting on the cut marks (the printed plus signs) and taping the pages together.

This horse portrait template is very light because I didn’t want to use a ton of ink, but it’s there:

The assembled template pages
The assembled template pages
[4] Transfer the Image Onto Your Painting Surface

After I pieced the template together, I taped it where I wanted it on the canvas.

I used regular carbon tracing paper and a stylus to transfer the imprint onto the background. I’m not worried that the carbon lines will not erase because I put the paint on thick enough to cover all the lines.

If you didn’t go through the steps of enlarging the template, just hand sketch the pattern onto the background.

In the past, I had problems covering the sketch lines when the area was white or yellow but I solved that problem. If you want to learn how to cover sketch lines well, read this article: Pigment Makes All the Difference.

[5] Apply the First 3 Colors

Now we’re at the fun part. Start applying red, yellow and burnt sienna according to the reference photo. Resist the urge to blend the colors. Instead, just load paint on a stiff brush or an angle brush and apply a streak of paint. Then reload the brush and do it again.

Apply 3 colors - red, yellow and burnt sienna
Apply 3 colors – red, yellow and burnt sienna


Red and yellow make orange.

Red and burnt sienna make dark red.

Don’t be too fussy. Later, you can paint over anything you want to change.

Notice that most of the horse is done in the warm colors found on the color wheel. I have found that people love paintings done with warm colors.

[6] Eye, Nostril and Ears
Black and white for the nostril, eye and ears

I like to get to the eyes as soon as possible because I enjoy working on a painting when there’s express in the animal’s face.

With black, paint in the nostril, eye and outside of ears.

When dry, put a dot of white in the eye and some white in the interior of the ears.

Adding expression with black and white

Add a bit of gray or brown around the eyes and nostrils as shown.

This is a good place to point out that I have an article about white and yellow paint. For the horse’s eye dot, I used my very best white. Learn more about what I mean by reading this article: Pigment Makes All the Difference.

[7] Add More Orange

Knowing that I would eventually darken up some areas, I felt the horse needed more orange at this stage:

Added more orange







[8] Darken Some Areas

Darken and round under the chin with burnt umber. Don’t blend too much.

Do the same on the hide at the base of the mane. Lightly bring up some color into the mane so that they appear attached.

Now you can see the overall appearance has contrast and shape. Resist the urge to blend the colors. Instead, put them on in streaks. When the painting is on the wall, the viewer’s eyes will do some blending:


[9] Add Blue

Now it’s time to add a cool color to the painting. With a thin brush add blue streaks to the mane, forelocks and ears:

[10] Add White, Make Last Touches and Sign It!

Add streaks of white around the painting, except at the shoulder and body. If you have it, use a white with a good pigment, such as Golden brand. If you don’t have this, just use any white paint that you have.

Add any other accent you want to make the completed picture:


Finished Colorful Horse Portrait 01
Finished Colorful Horse Portrait 01

Then sign it:

Signed painting
Signed painting. Good job!

If you have any questions about doing this painting, feel free to contact me using this form. I am not copyrighting this painting so you can copy it and sell (or gift it) it as many times as you want.

Enjoy the journey!