traditional exterior tan paint red shutters white trim*******

One difficult exterior renovation decision that many homeowners face is what color to paint the outside of the house. After all, it’s not something you do very often, and no one wants to look at a bad color choice for the next five or ten years.

Here are some tips for making the process of choosing the best exterior paint colors easier.

Keep It Simple

Professional painters and decorators suggest focusing on two or three colors for the two or three important outside elements. Pick a color for the body of the home, a color for trim (such as fascia, windows and overhangs), and an accent color for doors or shutters.

If your home is a single story, two colors may work best. For a 1½ or two story home, three colors are good. Victorian-style homes generally can handle lots of colors.

Work with What You Have

The colors for your exterior remodel should be based on hues that are already there. If you have a stone house with lots of gray, for example, painting the trim grey would be boring and make the house seem plain. Instead, use a warm, rich color such as a burgundy or a red to accent trim, doors and windows.

Also pay attention to your roof color and try to work it into your color choices. That’s another color that won’t likely change while you live in your home.

Try to think about how your color choices might affect your neighbors and whether your choices are too bright or soft for your street. By contrast, if all the neighborhood houses are the same, don’t be afraid to show some individuality and make your house stand out. If you’re planning to sell at some point, the right colors can greatly enhance curb appeal.

Check the Trends

Exterior colors are getting lighter, with light to medium values the top choices. Remember that color samples inside the store will look darker than they will outside. This is especially true of yellow and pink. If possible, paint a small portion of the back of your house and see how you feel about it over time. Ask friends and neighbors, too. You can always paint over what you don’t like.

The Possibilities

  • To make the house look more dynamic, go with opposite colors on a color wheel. But be careful to tone down the brighter colors or the house might look a little too wound up!
  • Blue is considered rather a daring color to use on the outside of a house, but it can create a wonderfully clean look with white trim and greenery nearby.
  • You wouldn’t necessarily paint your house all black when completing an exterior remodel, but as an accent color it works well. Instead of straight black, use darker shades of other colors such as green. It will appear black but have some subtle undertones for great effect. Use creamy white as a third shade to make the color pop.
  • The wonderful details on a Victorian home call for varied colors and sharp contrasts to show off those features. You can be bold and creative with colors on this type of house. Think of the lovely homes called “Painted Ladies” with their many varied colors. Use a historic paint color chart for even more ideas.
  • If cost is an issue, use a single color for walls and anything on them like vents, and put detailed colors on trim and the ends of eaves.
  • To make your house appear larger, use soft contrasting color combinations or a more monochromatic color scheme.
  • Keep a garage door from standing out by painting it the same as or slightly lighter or darker than the body color of your home.
  • In addition to choosing colors, you need to decide on the sheen of your paint: glossy, semi-gloss, soft-gloss or flat. Some professionals like to use a glossy finish on columns and window sashes with a soft-gloss on the house body.
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In all cases it might be wise to use a virtual painting program before you start to see how the colors will look on your house. Further pick an inconspicuous area of the home, still with good light to test paint colors. (Here our two articles on that topic. 1) Test Painting Colors & 2) Siding Restoration.)

two tone tan exteriorDoing the Job

There are several things to be done before you start to paint. First, remove any mold and mildew with a 3 to 1 solution of bleach and water. If possible, follow this with a power wash. Sand away any peeling paint and spot prime as needed.

Editor’s Note: Paint Removal is a science and does carry risk. For more on Painting Prep, see our category with the same name.

Choosing high-quality tools will make a difference, as will painting in the right weather conditions. Temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees F are ideal. Don’t plan to paint on windy days or when the sun is shining directly on your painting area.

These tips combined with your instincts and individuality will help you create a home exterior that is as lovely and charming as you care to imagine.


Joaquin Erazo, Jr. is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Case Remodeling/Design. He offers helpful tips on a variety of home remodeling and home improvement topics on his company blog: Remodeling Tips & Trends.

For more on choosing exterior colors I’ve attached a Houzz ideabook where you’ll find additional tips. Enjoy. ~jb

All images from Case Remodeling/Design.