How to Pick an Exterior House Paint Color

How to Pick an Exterior House Paint Color

Try some test patches before you decide

By Shelly McRae

Paint Roller, Brush and Paint Swatches
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The exterior paint colors you choose for your house should complement the architectural style of your home. The colors for the walls and trim should add to the aesthetic appeal of your home and to that of your neighborhood. Landscaping elements and the changing light throughout the day should influence your color choices as well.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Paint chips, a color wheel and samples are three of the best things you can have on hand when it comes to choosing a paint color. Some home improvement stores also have computer software that will help you visualize what your home would look like in different colors. In any case, you'll want to bring a notebook and/or your mobile phone to take pictures when comparing various exterior colors.
Picking a House Color

Step 1:

Stand across the street from your house and look at the houses to the left and right of yours. Consider which color would make your house stand out, yet blend well with your neighbors' colors. Write down the colors that immediately come to mind. Take some pictures with your camera or cell phone to record what you like.

Step 2:

Look at a color wheel. For each color you wrote down, write down the color opposite on the color wheel. These color combinations create contrast. Using one color for the walls and the opposite color on the trim and door will give your exterior visual interest.

Step 3:

Consider the architectural features of your house. The fascia along your roofline can be highlighted with a contrasting color, as can dormers, window trim and doors. These can also be complemented by using a color several shades lighter or darker than the color you use for your walls. Determine if you want the trim and features to blend in or stand out. If you want them to blend, use similar shades throughout. If you want them to stand out, choose contrasting colors.

Step 4:

Consider your landscaping elements. If you have large shade trees, your home may need a lighter, airier color to lighten the mood of the property. If your landscape consists of large expanses of green lawn and few trees, consider a darker, bolder color to play against the open space.

Step 5:

Walk or drive through your neighborhood and consider the overall color palette of the area. Are the more attractive homes painted in brighter jewel tones or earthier colors? Do these homes use contrasting colors or neutral shades for trim? Write down your ideas after your research.

Step 6:

Go to your local paint store or home improvement store. These outlets should have paint chips, the small papers printed with color selections. Consult your notes and take home several of the paint chips in the colors you're interested in, including the contrasting colors.

Step 7:

Lay out your paint chips and select three separate color combinations. Take the chips back to the paint store and purchase sample-sized paint of each color. If the store does not have sample sizes, buy a quart of each. This can cost a little bit of money but it's well worth it -- and it's a lot cheaper than painting the entire house, then discovering you don't really like the colors. The other reason to do samples is that the paint will look a little different on the surface of your home's exterior than it does on the paint chip.

Step 8:

Apply the samples in swatches on an exterior wall. Pair the color combinations on the wall and trim that you are considering. This area should get both sun and shade during the day. Check the colors frequently throughout the day. Take note of how the colors look in the changing light. For example, a light gray may be pretty in the early morning light but wash out to a dull white in the later-day sun. Consider a darker shade if you want more color depth or a lighter shade for more consistency in color.

Step 9:

Watch the test patches for a few days at least and then make a decision. Determine which color combination best suits all the criteria: working well with your neighborhood's color schemes and complementing your architecture and landscaping.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • The tint used to color paint can also be adjusted. For example, with custom colors, you may be able to get 80% of that color. That can be helpful if you like a color but desire a little less intensity. Another thing to consider is whether you want flat or semi-gloss on the walls and trim. Read other guides on this site to learn about the differences in those paints.
  • For homes with little trim, add shutters and paint in the same color as the trim.
  • Consider black as a trim color on modern architectural homes.
  • It's easy to forget about the peripherals when you're choosing a paint color. However, it's important to keep in mind that you'll need your main color to complement (or contrast with) your trim, doors, shutters and windows.

About the Author

Shelly McRae is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has experience with hydroponic gardening and other areas of the home improvement industry.

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