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How to Customize a Breyer Stablemate Model in 12 Easy Steps

Written by Blythe Poor

Learn how to paint a Breyer stablemate with pastels using our step-by-step tutorial.

Collecting Breyer model horses is fun, especially when you find one that looks like your dream horse (or real horse!). But, it’s even more fun to actually create your dream horse yourself.

Painting a Breyer stablemate (or any size model) is something that takes practice, patience, and imagination.

Click to see this book about Breyer customization on Amazon.

You can customize a Breyer in 12 steps: 

  1. Set Your Goal
  2. Select Your Model
  3. Prep Your Model
  4. Apply Primer 
  5. Apply a Base Coat
  6. Layer, and Keep on Layering
  7. Add Black Points
  8. Paint the Eyes
  9. Paint the Mane and Tail
  10. Add White Markings
  11. Paint the Hooves
  12. Add Final Touches

I walk you through each step below (with photos) to show how you can customize your first Breyer Stablemate.

What You’ll Need

Most of these supplies you can find at your local hardware store or art store. Any others can be ordered online. 


Click to get Kryon Primer on Amazon

Be aware that the purchase of spray paint is restricted by age laws in certain states, so check up on those to make sure!

Visit our Custom Breyer Amazon List to see these supplies, plus a few great starter Stablemate models. 

Step 1: Set Your Goal


This is the reference picture I’ll be using!

  • Search for reference pictures! This is the most important tool in your process.
  • I usually surf Google Images, Pinterest, horse magazines, and books for inspiration.
  • I don’t usually stick to “rules” when I’m painting. But, if you’re a stickler for realism, look at photos of whatever breed your model is and research the typical colors of the breed.
  • If your model isn’t a specific breed, let your imagination run wild!

Step 2: Select Your Model


Here’s the Stablemate I’m going to paint.

  • Stablemates can be found at many toy stores, tack stores, and discount stores if you want to shop in person.
  • If you’d rather shop online, you can find plenty of new and used Breyers on Amazon or Ebay.
  • Amazon also sells Breyer model painting sets if you want supplies and a model in one kit.
  • For this project, I got my model on Amazon after the original owner’s first attempt at customization.

Step 3: Prep Your Model


Taking a few minutes up front can save you time in the long run.

  • A lot of people like to strip their models before priming them, which involves putting the model in a chemical solution that makes the original finish/paint easier to remove.
  • Because of their small size, stablemates are difficult to strip. I tend to simply prime over the original finish paint instead.
  • Examine your model for issues. Are there any bumps? Any weird distortions? Mistakes can happen in the Breyer factory, but they’re usually easy to fix.
  • Unwanted bumps from plastic or dried paint can be sanded down with a high grit sandpaper. (My go-to is 220 grit.)

Step 4: Prime Your Model

    Primer-BoxAlways spray in a well-ventilated area.
  • Priming is important for creating a neutral base for whatever color you’re going to paint your horse.
  • Most people use white primer, or you may prime in the lightest color your horse coat will have and build from there.
  • When spraying primer on models, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area, as you are spraying chemicals. (The best place is outside.)
  • Most sprays are flammable, so ensure you aren’t spraying near heat or sparks either.
  • I do most of my priming in this box outside, but laying down paper is also a great option.
  • Make sure to cover all angles of your model with an even coating of primer.
  • Leave the model drying overnight to make sure it is fully dry before you start. (This also gets rid of that pesky primer smell before you bring it inside…)

Step 5: Apply the Base Coat


This is your first coat of any color, and it should be pale.

  • Look at your reference image.
  • Find the coat’s lightest point of color. This is your base coat.
  • Get your largest brush to ensure full coverage on this layer.
  • Put some pastel color onto your brush and brush it onto your model in circular motions.
  • I hold the model by the back legs. This is because I plan to have two white socks on his back legs.
  • Do not touch the pastel color until your coat is completely finished. Your fingerprints will leave oil on the model and the pastel will form unevenly around them.
  • Spray a coat of matte finish to set this layer.

Step 6: Layer, and Keep on Layering!


How to add a second color layer (if needed).

  • By this point, there are at least 3 layers of the base coat color on my model.
  • I’ve also blackened the legs, eye area, very lightly near the ends of the mane and tail, and muzzle.
  • Each layer should be separated by coats of matte finish spray.
  • This diagram shows how to apply a second color layer, if you have one. (I did not with this buckskin, so I opted out of this step.)

Step 7: Add Black Points


Here is my model after about 3 layers and adding black points.

  • The annoying thing about black points on light colored models is that it takes a lot more layers.
  • Black should be added to the legs, the muzzle, around the eyes, the groin area, and the inside of the ears.
  • Use a different brush now that you’re using a darker color so that if you need to come back with the lighter colors, you don’t have to pull any muscles trying to clean your brush.
  • Keep layering and setting until your black points are at a satisfactory density.
  • Spray a final layer of matte finish, and your coat is finished!

Step 8: Paint the Eyes


Painting realistic eyes takes practice. This is the photo I used as a reference.

  • Eyes are the most difficult part of model horse customizing, in my opinion.
  • Find a reference picture of a horse eye.
  • It’s perfectly ok if it’s not exact. Stablemate eyes are very very small and hard to paint in detail.
  • Get your acrylic paints and paint brushes.
  • Paint a simple black layer over the eye, and wait for it to dry.
  • Find the right brown for the iris and make a circle, almost reaching the top and bottom of the eye.
  • Wait for it to dry.
  • Paint a horizontal line for the pupil.

Step 9: Paint the Mane and Tail


Dark brown instead of pure black is best for manes and tails.

  • Manes and tails are my favorite parts!
  • Your mane and tail should not be the exact same color as the coat
  • If the horse has a white mane and a white coat, make the mane have a cream tint towards the end. Make it pop!
  • If your reference picture looks as though the hair is black, try for a very dark brown instead (unless your horse is entirely black)

Step 10: Add White Markings


Use a reference photo to add your white accents.

  • Similar to almost everything involved in model horse customizing, the key to white markings is layers.
  • You may prefer to use an off-white color for a touch of realism.
  • You don’t want to see brush marks on your markings, so water down your paint a lot.
  • As you start to build up layers, the color will get more and more solid.
  • Remember that face markings that reach the muzzle will have a pinkish tinge to them in the nose area.
  • The only markings on my horse are the two white socks on his back legs.

Step 11: Paint the Hooves


Painting tiny hooves can be tricky.

  • Maybe while admiring a horse’s hooves, you’ll have noticed that depending on the color of the fur, the color of hooves varies.
  • If your horse has white feet, then the hooves will be lighter in color.
  • This is another important reason that you have a reference picture.
  • If the hooves can’t be seen in the picture, try looking online for images of hooves of horses with the same coat color.
  • Mix paints and color the hooves appropriately.
  • Lay your model on its side so the hooves are not touching any surface while they dry.

Step 12: Add Final Touches

  • After finishing the hooves, you should be finished with your model.
  • To ensure that everything is fully set, I like to do a final spray of matte finish.
  • Make sure to cover every angle and all the parts you’ve painted.
  • I like to put an extra layer of matte finish with UV protection.
  • After the matte spray, I go in with my paint-on gloss and dab a little on the eyes, the insides of the nostrils, and the hooves to add a realistic sheen.
  • I wait for that to dry, and voila! My model is complete 🙂

Meet Rookie (Named after Horse Rookie, of course!)

Common Rookie Mistakes

I like to believe that everyone in this community is a “rookie,” since we’re all trying to develop our own specific styles.

That said, there are a few things that can dampen your enthusiasm during the process.

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others! I can’t even begin to count the nights I’d spend in bed scrolling through model horse customization photos on Instagram and wishing that I could create something as nice as Vincent Lange. Eventually, I realized that I am fairly new at all of this. And, at one point, the “masters” were also newbies. It takes time to build any new skill.
  2. Be patient. Speaking of time, it takes a long time to customize a model horse. I always wish that I could skip ahead to the end and that every layer I add could be all that the model needed to be finished. Lots of layers, lots of waiting for things to dry, rinse, and repeat. Don’t try to rush the process, or you’ll regret it in the end.
  3. Don’t expect things to come out perfectly the first time. Remember, this project is for YOU. Have fun with it!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you paint a Breyer horse with pastels?

See the step-by-step article above!

How do you paint a Breyer horse with acrylics?

I have never painted a horse with acrylics. But, I love watching video tutorials about customizing, like this one from HoneyheartsC:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZbpIGpBxFE]

Can you resculpt Breyer horses?

Yes! It is an advanced step to take, but definitely possible.

Most resculpting that I do is to fix factory mistakes on models, since most of my work is on Breyer Traditional scale models and mistakes are easier to spot on them.

This is a resculpted Shire Draft model. I added more mane and tail by using Magic Sculpt Resin to make it resemble the horse that inspired this project.

If you would like to know more about resculpting, I highly recommend checking out this website.


Resculpting Breyer models is an advanced skill you can work up to.

What are some of the rarest Breyer horses?

Every summer, there is a huge Breyer festival called Breyerfest. There, you can get all sorts of exclusive models that can only find there.

They auction off one-of-a-kind models, and there are also special runs that are only available to people with the right Breyer memberships.

What about airburshing model horses?

Airbrushing is the method used in the actual Breyer factory.

I have never done airbushing, but I love watching process videos by Wild Horse Studios. This is one of my favorites!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAEZ_5g7FdY]

How do you paint Breyer horse eyes?

Eyes are difficult to paint… specially on a Stablemate scale. But, when I’m working on Traditional models, I use a reference picture and try to think of every different shade the eye has as a color swatch — kind of like a paint by numbers mindset.

These are some tutorials that I find helpful when I’m feeling particularly uninspired to create some eye magic.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3gOoJk1hqc] [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9o7H6J81_0]

How do you paint a blue roan Breyer?

I’m working on a blue roan right now! I started with a few coats of gray primer and then went in to darken what needed to be darkened with black pastels, like the head and legs.

The difficult thing about roans is that their color is made up of white hairs mixing with hairs of another color, so the artist has to decide whether to use a solid color or go over the model with little white flecks of paint.

How do you remove paint from a Breyer horse?

I don’t usually strip my models before I customize them.

If you do want to do so, however, the most popular method is soaking them in a chemical bath and then literally washing the paint off.

There are several tutorials on YouTube, but the one I found most useful is below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2sdK9IlRBk]

Want to see more custom Breyer creations?

Follow my adventures at @breyersinthecity on Instagram. I’d love to see what you’re working on, too!

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to: 


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About the author


I hail from the bustling city of Brooklyn, New York, and I found my way to Bennington College to explore my fervor for the visual arts, focusing on the realms of painting and illustration. It's here that I delve into the world of creativity, expressing my thoughts and emotions through the strokes of a brush and the lines of a sketch.