How to choose exterior paint colors for my house

As of today, a Google search of, “How to choose exterior paint colors for my house” brings up 33,900,000 results. That’s not a surprise because choosing exterior paint colors for your home is a big decision that’s not easily undone. We know and understand that it can be stressful. And it’s one reason we have this ONiT Painting blog, where we can be a guide and resource of information. And it’s why ONiT has a color consultant on staff, trained not only in the ins and outs of color, but also the finish and sheen that fits your particular surface and environment. 

We use only high quality Sherwin-Williams paints. One of the things we love about Sherwin- Williams is they share our dedication to simplifying the process of painting the exterior of your house. From knowing how to choose exterior paint colors for your home, to surface prep, to clean-up, we believe in sticking with a process. So, let’s walk through a quick list. Here are six tips on how to choose exterior paint colors for your home.

Start with what you know. What is going to change? What is going to stay the same?

It’s easy to see exterior paint on another home or in the store and instantly fall in love with that particular color. But it is helpful to keep in mind the context of your particular project before you fall too madly in love with a color. Consider, for example, some elements that may or may not be included in your exterior painting project but will influence the final look:

    • Roof. What color are your shingles? If they’re newer, you are probably planning on keeping them for a while, and they should not clash with your exterior paint colors. 
    • Windows. Windows are complex elements. Consider your color scheme carefully. For instance, painting muntins/mullions, sashes and a casing the same color can give your window a “too-heavy” appearance
    • Trim. How prominent is your trim or ornamentation? The style and scale of your home may determine how you want to use color in your scheme to emphasize or deemphasize decorative elements. Some rules of thumb for using trim color to give an interior room balance, definition and proportion can apply to exterior as well.   
    • Landscaping and foliage. Do you have landscaping and foliage that plays a part in setting the look of your home’s front exterior? With a home surrounded by all-season bushes for example, you may want to consider earth tones. 
    • Stonework. Perhaps the bottom half of your home is Indiana limestone. Will your paint choices play well with the hue of that stone? 
    • House Numbers, Fixtures. Interesting fixtures may lead you to dial back the color/tone of your paint to emphasize the fixture.
    • The Front Door. The front door is a fast way to liven things up on your home’s exterior. Picking the right color includes accounting for sunlight. Try out the ColorSnap Visualizer (details in tip six below) or get expert advice from ONiT.

Now, Get to Know a Little More. Observe.

You may be ready to sprint out the door to the paint store. But here’s where some observational work might be in order. Take a tour. You know all those homes you hardly notice when you’re out running errands or commuting to work? They all have paint schemes. Take a familiar route, on foot or car—whichever is convenient, and focus exclusively on exterior paint. 

You are in paint selection mode, and your senses are more attuned than ever to take notice of what you like and what you don’t like. Take notes, mental at least, of what you like, what you don’t like, what feels like a trend, what fits real well, what might translate to your particular setting and so on. Tour at daytime. Tour at dusk. When you’re tuned in, you’ll see things in a new light!

Select Paint Colors for your Neighborhood

Part of the charm of Charleston’s Rainbow Row or San Francisco’s Painted Ladies is the organic way their quirky and exuberant use of exterior paint color melds with their respective setting’s history and local mythology. It’s tempting to try to mimic that exuberance in our own exterior paint color choices, but it can fall flat without those important geographica

red door

l and historical touchpoints. 

As you think about your neighborhood, you may feel hemmed in by the unspoken (or specified) dictates of the neighborhood, but don’t forget some of the smaller opportunities for self expression and bold color choices. A front door is one example of a relatively small element that can have a big impact and play off a more conservative exterior paint color.

Select Paint Colors for your Home

Did you fall in love with the beach house in that little bohemian fishing village turned tourist resort you visited last year? And the canary yellow paint? Oh, to die for! Before you go that route with your own home, consider if that bright color that worked so well in the seaside village will feel like it dropped in from outer space if applied to your own home. You want your exterior paint color choices to feel authentic to your home. 

We know choosing a color is tough, but with a color consultant on staff to walk you through it, the process can be enjoyable and highly rewarding. When you are deciding on how to choose exterior paint colors for your house, having an experienced, professional partner will pay off in spades.

Be Conscious of Sunlight. It can do Weird Things.

Dial it dark. And dial it warm. When you’re choosing colors by looking at chips, be mindful that the color you see under the fluorescent lights of the store or your living room might be several shades off from how that paint color applied to the exterior of your house will appear in broad daylight. Sunlight tends to have a cooling effect.

Test it!

There’s nothing to it, but to do it. Take a few small samples of the paint you are considering, paint a small test area on a piece of scrap material, and place it outside in the direct light your house receives. Is that navy a little lighter than you thought? Does that gray ‘read’ more white than gray? Seeing your paint in the natural sunlight can be a revelation. Test or find a way to simulate the effect of natural light as you make your exterior paint color choices. 

Still not sure how to choose exterior paint color for your house? Check out our color consultation service or try Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap Visualizer. Get a free in-person or virtual estimate today.