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By Nichole Talbot
Choosing exterior paint colors for your home can feel like a daunting task. It’s one of the first things people notice about your home, an opportunity to make a good first impression and a way to reflect your personal style. And, it’s arguably one of the most expensive paint jobs you’ll take on as a homeowner, with costs sometimes reaching several thousands of dollars.
With all this on the line, it’s important to get it right the first time to avoid costly redos, which is why it can easily cause design paralysis among the most experienced DIY-ers and home renovators.
That’s why we’ve developed this detailed guide on selecting the right exterior house colors, including ideas for your siding, roof and door. We’ve enlisted the help of industry experts to bring you the most comprehensive exterior paint guidance available, whether you just purchased a home, are remodeling an older home, are looking to sell or simply want a refresh. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best color scheme for your home.
When selecting exterior paint, you’ll choose more than one color. Called a scheme or palette, this collection of exterior house colors includes the wall or field color, accent color and trim color. All three must complement each other in addition to your home’s fixed materials, like roof, any stone or brick work and landscaping.
“Color selection is usually driven by architectural style and creating a sense of place that blends with the location,” says Travis Hendrix, senior architect at KGA Studio Architects in Louisville, Colorado.
We asked experts for their no-fail exterior siding colors and a couple of trendier, up-and-coming hues.
We can thank Joanna and Chip Gaines for mainstreaming the white modern farmhouse style that is all over design magazines, blogs and social media. “Right now, we’re seeing lots of bright white palettes as well as the opposite — dark black houses,” says Michelle Marceny, lead color consultant at The Color Concierge in the Denver area.
You can achieve that refined look with a white shade that looks fantastic on siding and most architectural styles. Be sure to determine whether you prefer a warm or cool undertone — this is where your home’s fixed materials will come into play, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Grays are widely popular for interiors and exteriors. Create a contemporary or modern look by going a few shades darker than you would inside your home. “Grays are still trending, but we are seeing darker steel or charcoal grays,” says Jessica Mycek, manager of innovation and consumer strategy at Dunn-Edwards Paints in Los Angeles, California.
If your home’s hard finishes and landscaping are neutral (and if you’re having trouble deciding between a cool or warm shade), taupe is a good choice.
“If you're in between — that’s where the greiges and taupes come in. They straddle the line between warm and cool,” says Mycek.
Taupe is foolproof and works well on many home styles, from classic and traditional to modern and contemporary.
Sophisticated and elegant, blue exteriors are on the rise, according to Marceny. “Blue houses have become a new classic,” she says. Color psychology may also come into play here, as blue can inspire a sense of calm and serenity, two feelings most of us would welcome in our homes.
Establish a seamless connection from the home to the outdoors with a rich shade of green. A great option as a vinyl siding color, dark greens with brown undertones are earthy and understated.
Once you’ve chosen a few favorite siding colors, now’s the time to consider your trim and accent color options for each selection. Don’t neglect trim when painting your home’s exterior, especially if you're sprucing things up to sell soon. “You have to deal with the trim because all those little dings and scratches that didn’t stand out before are now noticeable,” says Rob Levy, a Keller Williams real estate agent in Portland, Oregon, with more than 30 years in the business.
Accents can be a few shades lighter than the siding color or even complementary shades, according to Marceny. Trim color is pretty simple — use your window color and design as a guide. “If you have black windows, you can have dark or light trim. If your windows are white, we usually select light trim colors to help the white window frames recede,” says Marceny.
Your front door’s color is an opportunity to show off some personality. Have fun with this accent color because it’s easy to repaint if you change your mind.
You may also want to consider how your front door paint color ties into your home’s interior design. “If your front door color selection can bridge the exterior color palette to the interior color themes, then it’s an even greater success,” says Hendrix.
Check out our experts’ favorites, from classic and traditional to modern and trendy:
We're not sure if it was ever truly out, but black is back in style. Its timeless and refined look creates a distinctive sense of arrival and complements many color schemes. It may also increase your home’s resale value — up to $6,271 to be exact, according to a Zillow color study.
Like a breath of fresh air for your front door, a light green softens brighter field colors. It's an unexpected pop of color that's welcoming and inviting.
Nothing says ‘look at me’ more than a dramatic red. This bold color is a show stopper and can accentuate a more neutral color scheme. It also works with several architectural styles, like farmhouse, cottage, traditional, colonial and ranch.
Blue is having a moment in exterior color, and it’s easy to see why with its many cool and complementary shades. “Everyone wants a pop of color. And blues are really in,” says Mycek. From a rich navy and bright cobalt to dark teal, options are plenty with this people-pleasing hue.
A cheery burst of color could be a ray of sunshine for your front door. This mood-lifting shade isn’t for everyone, however – when it’s used to paint the whole exterior it could negatively affect a home’s resale price, according to Zillow.
Gray hues are a perennial pleaser, often cropping up on the front doors of contemporary and modern homes. It's a lovely accent if you want to play it safe or are planning to sell your home soon.
If you’re not planning to replace your roof, its existing color will influence your exterior color choices.
“The roof should be seen as a complementary selection, unless it’s the primary surface color that you will see (think Scandinavian modern),” says Hendrix.
Instead of highlighting specific roof shingle colors, it may be simpler to organize the selection to warm or cool color families. Roof colors often determine the color pathway you’ll take when selecting exterior paint colors. A black or gray roof works best with cool colors, while reds, terra cotta and brown roofs would do well with a warm color scheme.
With an exterior color project, what you get out of it depends on what’s put into the paint. In other words, the type and quality of the paint directly impact the quality of the finished product. Chemical makeup and sheen are important considerations when planning an exterior paint project.
So, what’s in the paint can, exactly? Paint is formulated with four primary ingredients:
You’ll want to choose a few different types of paint for your home that are appropriate to your home’s construction and materials. Use this cheat sheet to decide which paint type is right for you:
Best used for
These paints are great for outdoor projects because they offer a glossy sheen and fantastic resistance to extreme humidity, dirt and grime.
Porch floors, doors, railings
Water-based (latex, acrylic)
Acrylic and latex paints have the elasticity to withstand outdoor temperature fluctuations and offer resistance to peeling and cracking
Most exterior siding, stucco, trim, front door, brick
Flat paint achieves a smooth, non-reflective appearance and hides surface imperfections
Surfaces that aren’t touched regularly, like exterior walls
Smooth and velvety, satin’s slightly reflective sheen offers the look of a flat paint that’s easier to clean and maintain
Exterior walls, including most types of siding, stucco, eaves, soffits
Easy to clean and resistant to weather and dirt, semi-gloss works best for high-touch areas
Trim, windowsills, gutters, downspouts, garage doors
Adds a lovely richness to color and offers fantastic protection to traffic areas
Doors, trim, shutters, railing
Benefits are similar to gloss paints with even more protection, sheen and color depth
Doors, trim, shutters, railing
There’s a lot of information to consider when selecting an exterior house color, but don’t worry — we’ve put together a step-by-guide on how to select the best paint type and color palette for your home. And for those who prefer some extra guidance and consultation, a color expert or experienced paint contractor can help you through your selection process.
Before you fill your cart with paint swatches at your local home improvement store, do some homework and pre-planning so you start along an appropriate color path. Get a good look at your home’s exterior, paying attention to architectural style and elements like roof color, stonework, brick and landscaping.
Sunlight can make a home’s exterior paint color look different from what you see on a swatch. Not only that, but the time of day can affect the look of your home’s color. Notice the sides and areas of your home that see the most direct sunlight, indirect light and shade. You’ll want to test paint color in these areas (more on that below).
Ideally, your home’s paint color will look just as lovely on a sunny day as on a darker rainy one. In this case, where you live may help guide your color preferences. In regions that enjoy lots of direct sunlight, light colors may look even brighter and even washed out. Prolonged UV light will also cause the pigments in paint to fade more quickly, so you may need to repaint sooner than you’d like.
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to pick out some color possibilities. Experts recommend using your home’s dominant architectural features as a starting point. Begin with your home’s siding or field color (because that will be the most noticeable), followed by trim and accent paint.
“If your house is primarily brick, then the brick color should set the tone for other painted materials,” says Hendrix. “Or, if your windows or metal panels only come in specific colors from the manufacturer, then make sure you’re accounting for complementary exterior selections.”
Architecture or era can offer up some inspiration. For example, soft pastels would work well with a classic Victorian home, while rich earth tones complement a craftsman exterior. Take a look at color schemes associated with the architecture for inspiration and as a jumping off point for your creativity.
It’s not only good fences that make good neighbors. While it’s important that your home reflects your personal style, your exterior paint would do well to complement other homes on your street. It’s perfectly acceptable to want your home to stand out, but not in a way that detracts from the overall look and feel of the neighborhood.
“If your neighborhood was designed to mimic a prairie grassland, a Victorian painted lady won’t make sense,” says Marceny.
Neighborhood cohesion (or, in other words, how all the homes look together on a street) is part of what creates curb appeal. Curb appeal will also help maintain your and your neighbors’ homes’ resale value. “Putting $4,000 to $6,000 dollars into painting your house is pretty much always going to double, triple, or if not, getting more than that of your money back,” says Levy.
If you live in a community with a homeowner’s association (HOA), they may have guidelines and requirements about your home exterior color. Some HOAs require that you submit your proposed paint project for review and approval before you start.
Keeping all this in mind, your neighbors can be a source of inspiration. Sometimes the best exterior paint ideas can come from your own community. Take a walk or a drive around and see what color schemes appeal to you. Snap a few photos and compare the colors to your home’s architectural features.
Technology can be a great tool to help you pick your home’s paint palette. Paint visualization apps and websites let you play around with color to see how it will look on your home’s exterior. Simply upload a photo of your home and begin experimenting.
Visualization tools can be a helpful way to narrow down your list of color possibilities, especially if you’re just starting out. Many apps and tools, some provided by paint manufacturers, are free and user-friendly. Keep in mind the visualizers by paint companies are trying to sell their product, so color selection may be more limited than other tools from independent developers.
While online paint visualization tools are helpful, you’re still looking at a computer screen. Nothing compares to viewing the color in real life. Every paint professional we talked to stressed the importance of testing multiple colors outside under various light conditions (morning, midday and afternoon light).
“Many times, colors are selected under artificial lights or examined in the shade which hides the true color that you will see,” says Hendrix.
One of the best ways to test color out in the wild is to purchase a pint of each shade you like, along with a large piece of white fiberboard. Paint 2’ by 2’ swatches of each shade on the fiberboard and prop it up against the part of your home that sees the most sunlight. Be sure to move it around to other areas of the home and place it next to architectural detailing, like stonework or brick, to see how they look next to each other.
Also, be careful about testing directly on your home’s siding. Unless you plan to prime the area first, your home’s existing color will affect the look of the new paint color. The last thing you want is an unpleasant surprise when the project’s complete.
Painting your home’s exterior is a wonderful opportunity to highlight your home’s architectural features and showcase your personal style. While doing it yourself is entirely possible, painting exterior siding can be a lengthy and time-consuming task, and mistakes will be noticeable to you and anyone passing by. If you prefer to leave this home improvement project up to the pros, we’re here to help. Search for qualified paint professionals in your area today.
Tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll show you pros right for the job, with prices.