Homeowners can find the process of choosing exterior house colours quite daunting. Painting your home is a big investment and you don’t want to get the colours wrong. Some factors make choosing exterior colours more challenging than interior ones. The surfaces being painted are on a grand scale, which can make it difficult to visualize the end result. Secondly, the immense amount of natural light impacts how colours appear outside. Although the task of choosing exterior colours may seem overwhelming, there are some basic concepts you can follow to help you through the process.
Pay Attention To The Fixed Elements On Your House
When choosing an exterior colour scheme there are features of your house that can’t be ignored. These are the fixed elements like stone and brick, roof shingles, railings around steps, decks and balconies, or a natural wood door. These materials need to be taken into consideration as part of your exterior colour palette. You want your paint colours to compliment or harmonize with them, not fight against them.
What is your roof, is it metal, asphalt shingles or terra cotta tiles? Is the material one main colour or does it have several colours throughout it. What is the undertone? For example, if you’re roof is gray are there blue or green undertones? You don’t have to match your roof, but your paint colours needs to work with it, especially your main siding colour.
If you have rock work, what flecks of colour do you see in it? Do you have a strong coloured brick on your house such as red and orange? If so, this brick is going to highly dictate what paint colours you can use. Are your gutters and downspouts being painted? If not, their colouring has to fit into the overall look as well.
Do you have windows with coloured cladding? Many homes have vinyl windows that are white, cream, almond or brown in colour and recently black windows have become popular. If you have light coloured windows and paint the surrounding trim dark it creates a picture frame look and vice versa for dark windows surrounded by light trim. The windows will become a frame within a frame of the trim work. It’s something to keep in mind and may not be a look you find desirable on your particular house.
A Well-Coordinated Colour Palette Works With The Landscaping And Hardscaping
Consider your house a backdrop to your landscaping and hardscaping. Pay attention to the trees, shrubs and gardens around your property. Use the nature around you for inspiration so that your house compliments it. If you have an abundance of trees you may want to lean towards an earthy colour palette. If there’s a show stopping flower gardens in your front yard that bloom a certain colour, consider mimicking that colour on your front door.
If you have expansive areas of hardscaping around your house it may have an influence on your colour selections. Do you have large areas with brick pavers or a cobblestone driveway? You will want to stand back and take the colour of these materials into consideration and how they fit in with your house.
The property below has a nice balance of colours and contrasts. The colours of the house, landscaping and hardscaping compliment each other. The golden tone of the siding brings out the rich colours in the stone around the garage door. The walnut stain on the decorative wood in the gables ties in with the similar colouring in the cobble walkway and inset in the driveway. The warm, creamy trim colour works well with the siding, white trim would be too stark.
Natural Light Makes Choosing Exterior Colours More Complicated
Paint colours outside look lighter and cooler than you might expect, especially when they are applied to an expansive surface. If you’re admiring a colour on a paint chip take a look at colours at least two shades darker and similar colours with a warmer hue. These might be the direction you need to go in to get the look you desire on the exterior of your house.
The direction of light can also make colours look different on each side of a house. The colour on south facing portions of the house can become washed out at certain times of the day, while north facing sides can look darker. Areas of the house that are shadowed by large trees will look darker as will sections of the house underneath overhangs or balconies.
No one colour choice is going to be perfect on all areas of your house in all light conditions. A compromise may have to be made where one side of your house becomes the priority. In many cases this is the front of the house since it tends to be the side that is the most visible and where you are looking to have that all important curb appeal.
The house below is painted in the colour White Dove OC 17. It’s a slightly warm and creamy white, yet as you can see in the photo it reads white on the exterior of this modern style farm house. If the siding was painted a true white it would appear far too stark.
What Sheen Of Paint Is Best For House Exteriors?
All things being equal a paint with higher sheen has more durability, resists dirt better and is easier to clean. However, paint technology has improved in this regard for lower sheen paints, they are much better than they used to be.
Choosing paint sheens comes down to a balance of aesthetics and ease of cleaning and durability. Generally a higher sheen paint is not a good look for textured surfaces like brick, stucco, cement and wood siding. Higher sheens will show imperfections in surfaces that are not in good condition. Brush strokes and touch-ups are also harder to conceal in higher sheen paint.
Hardie Board Siding can have quite a bit of texture. You’ll see it painted in anything from flat to satin and it will look noticeably different between lower and higher sheens. The surfaces around the perimeter of your house may determine what the best choice for sheen is. If the landscaping contributes to dirt splashing back or getting blown onto your house a higher sheen might be the best option.
Trim work and doors tend to be painted with a slightly higher sheen like low-luster or satin for the higher durability and better resistance against dirt retention.
Does sheen have an effect on how paint colour looks? The answer is yes. If you take the same colour and have it tinted into different sheens of paint it can appear lighter or darker. Colours generally look more vibrant in a higher sheen paint.
Mistakes That Are Made When Choosing Exterior House Colours
Don’t highlight or draw attention to unattractive features on your house. Make less desirable items like utility boxes and dryer vents blend in by painting them the same as the surface they are sitting on. Save the contrasting or accent colours for attractive architectural details.
Don’t be the bad neighbour that uses a colour scheme that clashes with the houses around you. You don’t have to blend in like a wall flower, but your colours should complement or harmonize with surrounding houses.
Don’t overlook the environment of your house. Painting dark or primary colours that receive harsh sunlight, especially on larger surfaces will fade at an accelerated rate. You have to be careful with using dark colours on surfaces like wood doors. If the door receives direct sunlight the dark colour will retain more heat that can cause warping.
Don’t pick colours that are too vibrant or bright unless they suit the particular style of your house.
Don’t use too many colours. It’s best to stick to an exterior colour palette of two or three colours. Keep in mind that your roof, brick, stone work and other fixed elements are all colours on your house and contribute to the overall scheme. Too many colours on your house will make it look overly busy.
Pay Attention To The Architectural Details
Identify the architectural details of your house and decide whether they are attractive enough to highlight or do they need to be painted to blend in. Attractive features can be painted with a complimentary colour to the background, a contrasting colour or in a slightly darker or lighter shade of the same colour to give a subtle difference.
Below is a excellent example of the importance to recognize all the elements on your house and how they contribute to the overall colour palette. This house has a lot going on. The numerous, colours, shapes, lines and textures have your eyes bouncing all over the place.
The new colour scheme works well with the dark stained wood. To tone down some of the architectural features the vertical corner trim and the window trim above the balcony doors has been painted the same as the siding colour. The look is calmer and more harmonious.
Colours That Are Slightly Muted Look Best On House Exteriors
That vibrant coloured paint chip that you like in the paint store may not look so great on your house. Think of the grand scale it’s being applied to. The intense sunlight can drastically change how a colour appears outside. Bright or saturated colours can end up looking tacky and unnatural on your house. Colours tend to look best when they are somewhat muted. For instance if you like blue or green, choose ones that have a slightly grayed off tone to them as compared to a bright version of the same colours.
Be Careful With Undertones When Picking Exterior Paint Colours
To be able to pick colours that work well together and with the other elements on your home you need to get familiar with undertones. Once you understand how to identify the undertones in paint colours you’ll have more confidence in picking colours that coordinate with your home and its setting. The best way to see the undertones in a colour is by comparing it with other colours.
When viewing the Benjamin Moore Blue Heron colour on its own it may not be as apparent that is has a violet undertone. When it’s put next to Van Deusen Blue it becomes more obvious. The violet undertone in Blue Heron could become more pronounced on a house exterior and enhanced further under certain lighting conditions.
Are There Exterior Paint Colours That Are Fade Resistant?
Paint technology is continuously improving with protectants from UV that help paint retain its colour. However, there are still colours that are more prone to fading. Colours can change altogether over time, for example a dark blue could start to take on a violet hue as it ages. Even in the most expensive brands you’ll find that vivid colours will become more subdued after a few years. In general deeper and/or brighter colours are going to fade at an accelerated rate compared to lighter neutrals and whites. For the longest lasting results choose earthy colours as opposed to reds, blues, greens and yellows. If you chose colours in the latter categories pick ones that are toned down or slightly muted instead of brighter versions.
If All Else Fails Choose Several Shades Of The Same Colour
Contrasting colours are a great way to draw attention to architecture, but too much contrast can start to detract from details. As long as you pick the right colour, it can be a safe choice to go with a monochromatic look on your house. This can be done by choosing lighter and darker shades from the same colour family. Paint manufacturer’s often have sample strips with a colour that graduates from dark to light. You could pick a mid-tone shade for the body and the lighter shade for the trim and the darkest end of the strip for your front door.
What Colour Should The Overhead Garage Doors On My House Be Painted?
What colour to paint the overhead garage doors becomes a dilemma for many homeowners. Should they be the same as the body colour, the trim colour or something altogether different?
There’s no correct answer. It depends on the colours being used, the size and style of the house the size and number of overhead garage doors and where they are situated on the house. They are generally not a feature that you want to draw attention to by painting them with an accent colour. Blending them in with the body colour works for some houses but it can take on the look of a monolithic structure for others. The best choice may be to paint the garage doors the trim colour. This keeps them somewhat neutral, neither highlighting them nor making the house too much of one colour. Another option is to paint the doors a shade or two lighter or darker than the house to give a bit of difference without having too much contrast
Where To Get Exterior Colour Inspiration
Drive around neighborhoods in your city to see what colours you find attractive. However, keep in mind colours you like on other houses may not work on yours.
Paint stores have pre-arranged exterior colour combinations. You can find their brochures in store and often they can be viewed on their website. Many paint manufacturers have website software programs where you can look at colour schemes.
The Benjamin Moore Personal Colour Viewer allows you to upload photos of your house exterior and play around with the colours. Or you can use one of the provided photos. Their website has online brochures and colour collections, you can browse articles that provide colour inspiration and advice.
Sherwin William Colour Tools has the same concept with their software. Online exterior house photos can be viewed with different colours or you can upload your own house photo. They also have a wealth of colour theory information and online brochures.
Other excellent online resources for colour inspiration are:
Houzz – there’s a photo section where you can do searches related to house exteriors and colour. You can get very specific with your searches, for example type in “exterior colours for west coast style houses” or “best gray and white exterior house colours”. A personal idea book can be created to save the images you like for future reference.
Pinterest – You can do endless searches on Pinterest for colour inspiration. As with Houzz you can get very specific in your searches. Try things like “exterior paint colours for Hardie Board siding” or “modern exterior house colour combinations.” Photos you like can be pinned to a personal board and organized into categories as you see fit.
Online search options are endless from decorating experts who have blogs, to colour reviews on Youtube.
Applying Exterior Paint Samples
When you get your colour choices narrowed down, don’t hesitate to go to the paint store and purchase sample size testers. It’s next to impossible to envision the overall colour on your house from a tiny paint chip. Narrow down your colours to a few options and purchase them in a sample size from the paint store.
You can apply the colours to several spots on your house, put a sample of the body and trim colour on to see how the colours work together. Or you can start by painting the colours onto some poster boards so that you can move them around to different areas of the house.
View the colours at various times of the day. Changing light will cause the colour to look different by either casting a warm or cool light onto your house. Expect it to look quite different when comparing early morning, afternoon and early evening light in full sun and in shade. Make sure you are viewing the colours next to other elements on the house like brick or stone.