Horse Portrait Oil Painting Process

Horse Painting in Oil Pet Portrait from Photo

Horse Portrait of Luna

This post goes through some of the unique challenges of painting horses from photos, as well as my complete painting process—start to finish.

I go through these same steps with all of my pet portraits, starting with some digital mockups.

Her owners sent over several photos, but one of the challenges in photographing (and painting) horses, is fitting them into the frame! We couldn’t find one with just the right angle off the hop, so I helped create a composite and corrected the perspective on the leading favourite. 

This is what we came up with:

Next comes a canvas sketch!

Even though I start the portrait using a lot of lines, I move to what I call “block painting” as quickly as possible. By filling in blocks of colour instead of just defining the edges of horse and sky, I can stand back and get a much better feel for how the final painting will look. This was one of the hardest lessons to learn when I first became an artist, and I’m still learning it. 

Big chunks of light and dark are the most important thing to get down early.

For example, at this stage I had to choose whether it was more important to brush in the shadow under her chin, or to show where her legs are. 

Now, before I start on any details, I’m going to have to get some background in. Big brushy stuff first, as with all my artwork.


Ooh, I’m really going to have to do something about those eyes now. The rest of the painting is coming together and they’re starting to stand out a bit too much.

The eyes really are the most important part of a portrait – human, horse, dog, or otherwise. They’re the place we connect with the subject, and look first for expression, so they have to be just right.

Maybe that’s why I leave them for last.

Horse Painting in Oil Pet Portrait from Photo

With the eyes finished, I go over everything with the brightest titanium white highlights, and this horse portrait is done!

If you’re interested in getting a custom horse portrait or other pet portrait, please feel free to get in touch with any questions. I can be reached at [email protected] or you can see more examples of my work in my Custom Pet Portrait Gallery.

Prints of my artwork can also be found at

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