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How To Pick Paint Colors For Your House Exterior

Can painting a house be fun?


Rose-colored Victorian home with white and cream details

Rose-colored Victorian home with white and cream details

Photo by Patti McConville, Collection: Photographer's Choice / Getty Images Red Door

A bright red door is a traditional feature on many homes. This farmhand cottage is painted a rich, almost black, shade of gray. Photo © Jackie Craven

Your house is your canvas and a model for learning about architecture. Here's how to choose paint colors that not only will bring out your home's beauty and character, but also get you thinking about architectural details.

Difficulty: Sometimes it is; sometimes it's not.

Time Required: At least 2-3 weeks

Here's How:

  1. Begin with colors suggested by your roof and masonry. Is your roof asphalt? Shingle? Terra-cota? Is your home brick? Stone? A combination? Construction materials have their own colors. When choosing exterior paint, start with what's there already.
  2. Consider the color schemes used inside your home. Exterior colors should harmonize with the interior.
  3. Don't clash with your neighbors! Look around your neighborhood. Does your house look like the house next door, like in a suburban development? Or does your house stand apart, like the original large farmhouse that is now surrounded by newer ranches? Choose colors that coordinate with the buildings around you.
  4. Large surfaces make paint look lighter. Consider selecting darker shades. Where does the sun shine onto your house? How is your house positioned in the environment? Although it's possible, built houses usually aren't moved to a position on its lot, but it makes you wonder what the builders were thinking when they laid the foundation. Think about the history of your house.
  5. Remember that very bright or very deep colors will fade. In fact, the color may change altogether as the paint gets older. A deep, slate gray may turn more green or blue as it ages. How have colors held up on ancient buildings? Skyscrapers?
  6. To emphasize architectural details, outline them with an accent color that contrasts with the background. What are the architectural details of your house? Do you have brackets? Swirls? Dentil molding? More importantly, are there architectural details missing that should be replaced before you being painting?
  7. Use darker colors to emphasize shadows and lighter colors to show projections.
  8. Avoid extreme contrasts. Choose colors that are related. Use available software programs to visualize combinations. Remember to check with your historic commission to check out historic house colors.
  9. Study color samples outside, but never in direct sunlight. Bright sun will distort the color.
  10. Photocopy a sketch or photograph of your house. Use watercolors or colored pencils to try color combinations and narrow your choices. Then use free tools to help you choose.
  11. Before buying large quantities of paint, buy quarts of your selected colors and paint one area of your house.
  12. Take your time... be creative... and have fun! Make this a family project. Let the kids be responsible for painting a specific architectural detail - what's the worst that can happen?


  1. The simpler your house, the fewer colors you'll need. For an elaborate Victorian house style, plan to use four to six colors.
  2. Light colors will make your house seem larger. Dark colors or bands of trim will make your house seem smaller, but will draw more attention to details.
  3. For some accents, consider using darker or lighter shades instead of changing color.
  4. Remember the feng shui of exterior house color.

What You Need:

  • A sense of humor.
  • Time.
  • Comraderie.
  • Love.
Related Video
Pick Exterior Paint Colors
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