Painting Guide for the Italian Wars 1494–1559

Painting guide for the Great Italian Wars (1494–1559). It covers:

Spanish Infantry

Infantry should look splendid, with little uniformity.

During the Italian Wars the Spanish wore close fitting hose, loose tunic, and often Moorish boots of red Morocco leather (Gush, 1975). Most had helmets, either sallets, burgonets, or cabacete morions. Armour was also common amongst all arms and could be a plate corselet, mail shirt, studded brigantine, or leather jerkin.

1534 Arcabucero; Piquero

1534 Arcabucero; Piquero
Source: NYPL The Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms

Hair (their own)

Black or dark brown

Tunic & breeches

Varied colours:

  • Bright red (most common), yellow (common), green, blue, but also white, black, grey, brown, etc. Heath (1997) says blue was unpopular, and brown shunned because it was associated with rustics.
  • Contrasts common, but not garish (leave that for the Germans to come).
  • Often striped or patterned; often slashed to show contrasting material beneath. Sleeves may differ in colour.
  • Shoulder wings of doublet often alternative colour, sometimes striped (may have distinguished units).

Hats (if worn)

Various (as above)


Base material: Various (as above); but often white

Cloaks (if worn)

Base material: Various (as above); often scarlet.

Sash (worn by officers, pikes and cavalry)

Base material: Red (always)

Cartridge bag


Powder flask


Other leather

Base material: Brown or black. Boots sometimes red.

(Boots + straps + belt, etc)

Fittings: Iron

Armour (if worn)

Mail: Iron or blackened

Plate (including helmets): Varied including steel, gunmetal, gilded, or blackened.

Leather: Brown or buff

Linen (used by Conquistatores): Probably white or off white given this idea was adopted from the Americans

Shield (if used)


  • Steel/iron
  • leather covered adarga
  • painted adarga

Steel/iron shields would predominate. From what I can tell all round shields were steel/iron. Adarga (kidney shaped) shields, as carried by Spanish genitors, could be leather covered or steel/iron faced. If leather covered they could be natural or painted.

Painted adarga shields only used black, white and red. They could be plain or have very simple patterns. Typical patterns:

  • plain i.e. plain black or plain white or plain red
  • half and half split vertically e.g. black on left and white on right
  • one colour except a contrasting line about 3 inches from the edge all around e.g. white with a red line

Boss (if any): Iron

Sword and dagger

Handle: Iron, ivory, or wood

Point: Steel

Musket/Arquebus/pistol (if used)

Stock: Wood or blackened

Barrel: Steel or gunmetal

Pike (if used)

Haft: Wood

Blade: Steel

Spanish Tercio Costume Italian on Google

“Spanish Tercio Costume Italian” on Google

Spanish and Italian Cavalry

as infantry, plus ….

Plumes/helmet crest (if any)

Highly coloured. Often red.

Horse trappings

Coloured; same colour for all trappings on each horse.

Lance (if used)

Coloured to match trappings, often striped. Spanish tended towards red over yellow lance pennons.

Cassock (if used)

Base material: Various (as above). With a Red Burgundian Cross front and back.

1508 Hombre de armas

1508 Hombre de armas
Source: NYPL The Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms

1530 Rico-home y su page de lanza

1530 Rico-home y su page de lanza
Source: NYPL The Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms

1508 Escopetero 2

1508 Escopetero 2

1534 Porta estandarte

1534 Porta estandarte


The Italians pretty much wore the same costumes as the Spanish (Infantry, Cavalry).

I’m not sure that the Italian men-at-arms used the same red over yellow lance pennons as the Spanish.

German / Landsknecht

The Germans (including the Landsknecht) and Swiss wore similar clothing. Both Swiss and Germans favoured the slashed look. Both would have colours schemes like the Spanish, but more colourful. Parti-colours costumes were possible.

German officers in Imperial service, and some with long lasting loyalties like Georg Von Frundsberg, wore a red sash (Miller, 1976). And nominally at least all Landsknecht were in Imperial service – although at times some fought for the French. All men in Imperial service wore a red cross as a field sign.

Landsknechts, favoured leather ‘overalls’ more than the Swiss.

Example Landsknecht colour schemes from the plates in Miller (1976):

  • Green shirt; Blue/yellow stripped hose
  • Blue/yellow stripped shirt and hose
  • Parti-colours doublets in blue/red with red over yellow slashed sleeves; Parti-coloured hose with blue/yellow and red/yellow legs
  • Parti-coloured left and right, including shirt, breeches and stockings. Left: blue over white. Right: Red over yellow.
  • Red over white slashed shirt and breeches. White stockings.
  • Blue over white slashed shirt. Hose parti-colour with tan and red legs.
  • Green shirt, breeches, stockings. Leather jerkin over top
  • Blue over yellow shirt and breeches. Leather jerkin over top
  • Blue-Black over crimson shirt and breeches. White stockings.
  • Black over red shirt. Black breeches and stockings with red trim.
  • Parti-coloured left and right, including shirt, breeches and stockings. Left: Red, white and green stripes. Right: yellow over white shirt and breeches; yellow stockings.


On German artillery the carriage was always black with red metal fittings (Miller, 1976). The wheels were left their natural colour. Barrels were bronze.

Landsknecht Costumes on Google

“Landsknecht Costumes” on Google


The Swiss wore similar clothing to the German Landsknecht.

Swiss, particularly officers and standard bearers, favoured feathered caps and turbans more than the Germans. The Swiss wore a white cross as a field sign.

Swiss Pike Costume on Google

“Swiss Pike Costume” on Google


Gush, G. (1975). Renaissance Armies 1480-1650. Patrick Stephens.

Heath, I. (1997). Armies of the Sixteenth Century: The Armies of England, Ireland, the United Provinces, and the Spanish Netherlands 1487-1609. Foundry Books.

Miller, D. (1976). The Landsknechts [Men-At-Arms 58]. Osprey.

Miller, D. (1979). The Swiss at War 1300-1500 [Men-At]

NYPL The Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms

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