How to Pick Exterior Paint Colors: A Guide to Enhancing Curb Appeal

how to pick exterior paint colors

Selecting the right exterior paint color for your home is vital for enhancing curb appeal and property value. Start by considering the house’s architectural style and era, which guide appropriate color schemes. The surrounding landscape, neighborhood standards, and climate also play crucial roles in color selection and durability. Evaluate the size and prominence of your home; light color generally makes homes appear larger and more welcoming, whereas darker tones provide a more substantial look.

Also consider factors such as the roof color and permanent fixtures like stone or brick and choose colors to ensure a cohesive aesthetic. Testing paint swatches on the home’s exterior to see how they react to different lighting conditions throughout the day is essential for making a well-informed choice that maintains its appeal over time.

Understanding the Basics of Exterior Paint Colors

Choosing the right exterior paint colors is essential for enhancing a home’s visual appeal and reflecting homeowners’ style. The color of a home’s exterior can profoundly affect its overall appearance and charm.

The Significance of Curb Appeal

The curb appeal of an entire house refers to how appealing it looks when observed from the street, and the outside paint color selection greatly influences this initial impression. A suitable color scheme can draw attention to architectural elements and raise the value of a home. Colors that convey a homeowner’s individual taste and blend in with the community should be taken into consideration.

Role of Natural Light and Surroundings

Natural light affects how colors appear on a home’s exterior. Direct sunlight can wash out pale hues or intensify brighter shades. The home’s surrounding landscape also influences perception; for example, green foliage can cast a subtle hue on the paint. Homeowners should observe their home’s exposure to light at different times of the day to make informed color choices.

Color Wheel Fundamentals

Understanding the color wheel is crucial for selecting paint hues that harmonize. There are three primary categories on the color wheel:

  • Primary Colors: Red, blue, and yellow. These cannot be created by mixing other colors.
  • Secondary Colors: Green, orange, and purple, made by combining primary colors.
  • Tertiary Colors: Created by mixing primary and secondary colors.

Using the color wheel, homeowners can choose complementary (opposite each other on the wheel) or analogous (next to each other) color schemes to create the desired visual effect on their home exterior.

Choosing Your Main, Trim, and Accent Colors

When selecting exterior paint colors, one must consider three key components: the main color that will dominate the building, trim colors that will outline and define architectural details, and accent colors that add character and highlight specific features.

Selecting a Main House Color

The main color serves as the backdrop for your home’s exterior and often reflects the homeowner’s style and the house’s architectural design. It’s essential to choose a color that complements the surrounding landscape and the roof’s tone. A color wheel can be a great tool in finding complementary colors. For instance, if the surrounding landscape contains many greens and earth tones, consider warmer main colors like beiges or taupes.

Roof ColorSuggested Main House Colors
GrayBlues, whites, greens
BrownBeiges, yellows, warm grays
BlackGrays, blues, greens, reds
Consider also the paint’s finish; a flat or matte finish can help hide surface blemishes, while a semi-gloss finish might be reserved for trim for its durability and ease of cleaning.

Picking Out Trim and Accent Colors

Trim and accent colors should harmonize with the main color while also offering enough contrast to create visual interest and highlight the home’s best features. Keeping trim color consistent helps in creating a unified look, whereas varying the accent colors can bring individuality and character. The trim color often mirrors the main color’s undertones but is usually chosen in a lighter or darker shade for the right contrast.

Trim Color Examples

Main ColorTrim Color
BlueLighter blue or white
BeigeIvory or cream
GreenDarker green or tan

The accent color is typically bold and is used sparingly. This might be used for front door color, shutters, or ornate details. In an exterior paint color palette, the accent color can be from the opposite side of the color wheel, providing a pop of color to draw attention to the architectural features.

Accent Color Inspiration

Main ColorTrim Color
GrayRed or navy
WhiteBlack or deep green
BeigeBurgundy or olive
Consider the style of the home as well; traditional homes often feature more muted trim and accent colors, while modern homes can handle more striking contrasts and contemporary color combinations.

Considering Architectural Style and Details

When selecting exterior paint colors, one must weigh the architectural style and details of their home, ensuring that the chosen hues complement these elements appropriately.

Historic Versus Modern Homes

Historic homes often come with a palette prescribed by their time period, which can help guide the color selection. For instance:

  • Victorian homes may suit a range of jewel tones, playing up their ornate trim and decorative details.
  • Colonial style typically favors more subdued colors, like whites, creams, and pastels, to highlight their symmetrical design and classical columns.

On the other hand, modern homes favor bolder, more experimental approaches to exterior colors. A modernist structure with clean lines might sport a monochromatic scheme or contrasting bold accents.

Highlighting Architectural Features

Selecting the right colors can accentuate the home’s exterior and architectural details:

  • Brick Facade: If the home has brick elements, it’s important to choose colors that complement the tones in the brick, rather than clash. Consider the color saturation and undertones of the brick when selecting trim or accent colors.
  • Wood Siding: For homes with wood siding, stain or paint can enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Use tones that blend with the environment or select colors that make the wood grain stand out.

By carefully considering the architectural style and specific details like brick facades and wood siding, one ensures the paint colors enhance the home’s character and curb appeal.

Analyzing Color Samples in Different Settings

Choosing exterior paint colors is a crucial decision that requires careful consideration of how paint samples look under various conditions before making a selection.

Testing Colors at Different Times of the Day

Morning: Observing paint samples in the early morning light when the sunlight is soft and warm can reveal subtle undertones in the color.
Noon: High noon offers an intense, direct sunlight which can significantly affect the appearance of colors, possibly making them appear lighter or washed out.
Evening: As the sun sets, exterior colors often look warmer and deeper, giving a true sense of the paint’s richness and saturation in ambient light.

Time of DayColor Appearance
MorningWarm undertones visible
Noon (Direct Sun)May appear lighter or faded
Late AfternoonTrue richness and color saturation
DuskDeeper, warmer tones

Seeing Colors in Real-Life Application

Sample Boards: Applying paint samples to large boards and placing them against the home’s exterior allows for an accurate assessment in various outdoor settings and against other elements like landscaping and hardscaping.
Surrounding Environment: It’s important to consider the surrounding environment, as neighboring colors and natural landscape can influence how a paint color is perceived. They should view the samples within this real-life context to gauge compatibility.
Contextual Colors: Paint samples should be seen next to key elements such as roofing, trims, and shutters, to ensure they harmonize with these existing colors and materials.

Sample BoardsMust be large enough to view against home’s exterior for true representation
Surrounding EnvironmentColors from nature and neighboring houses can affect perception
Contextual ComparisonCompatibility with roofing, trims, shutters, etc., is essential

Integrating Colors with the Home’s Environment

Choosing exterior paint colors involves considering the existing natural surroundings and architectural elements. The goal is to create a cohesive look that complements both the roof and landscape while respecting the neighborhood’s aesthetic.

Matching Colors with the Roof and Landscape

Roof Considerations

The color of the roof sets a critical tone for color selection. For homes with darker roofs, lighter shades can provide a pleasing contrast, whereas homes with lighter-colored roofs might benefit from warmer, darker tones to balance the visual weight. A shingle-color swatch can serve as a useful guide when examining potential wall colors.

  • Neutral roofs can pair with a wide range of colors.
  • Warm-toned roofs often harmonize well with earthy wall colors.
  • Cool-toned roofs may suit grey or blue palettes.

Landscape Synergy

Integrating with the landscape ensures the home feels nestled within its environment rather than at odds with it.

  • For homes in wooded areas, greens and browns harmonize with the natural surroundings.
  • In arid climates, consider colors that reflect the local flora and geology, such as tans and beiges.


What are some tools or apps to visualize exterior house colors before deciding?

Many paint companies offer online tools and mobile apps that allow homeowners to upload photos of their homes and experiment with different paint colors. Examples include Sherwin-Williams’ ColorSnap® Visualizer, Benjamin Moore’s Personal Color Viewer, and Behr’s Paint Your Place®.

What is the best approach to determining a harmonious color combination for my home’s exterior?

Start by considering the architectural style of your home and its natural surroundings. Utilize color wheels and consult with design professionals if possible. Neutrals are generally safe, while complementary colors can add bold contrast.

Can you suggest modern exterior paint options that enhance curb appeal?

For a modern look, consider a palette that includes neutral grays, crisp whites, or deep blue. Matte finishes can add a contemporary touch, while a pop of color on the front door can create a welcoming focal point.

Where can I get ideas for the colors I want to paint my exterior?

You can find inspiration in historical sites, home design periodicals, neighborhood walks, and the natural world. Global visual inspiration can also be found on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

What are the considerations for choosing paint colors that complement the roof?

The roof color should be a starting point. It lasts longer than paint, so select a paint color that matches or is harmonious with the roofing. For example, cool roof colors pair well with blues, greens, and grays, while warm roofs pair well with creams, beiges, or browns.

What are the residential home’s popular exterior paint colors?

This can vary depending on the place and structural design; however, trending color includes warm neutrals, greens and the everlasting blue. Darker colors and supplementary colors are also becoming in-demand as they create a sophisticated contrast with primary colors.

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