How to Pick the Perfect Exterior Paint Color

House Painting Tips

A new coat of paint can transform a home, freshening up the exterior and instantly upping the curb appeal. Given the impact (and expense) of the project, picking an exterior paint color can be a painstaking process, but according to Christy Baker, owner of Pigment in Charlottesville, Virginia, there are a few tips and tricks that can help demystify the decision-making. Here, Baker shares what to consider when selecting a paint color for the exterior of your house, as well as some of her favorite hues.

Take light into account. Colors read very differently depending on the light, and the direction your home faces can have a big impact on how the hue translates. For example, if your home faces east, the light will tend to make colors seem bluer. If you are using a warm beige on the outside of your home, the eastern façade may appear a bit “dead,” as the blue will offset some of the orange tones. Conversely, a western exposure can really deepen and add warmth to a color. Also, keep in mind that a color will look very different on a rainy day than it looks on a sunny day. To get a sense of what the end result will be, paint the largest sample you can—five feet by five feet minimum—on various exterior planes and pay attention to what the light does to the color at different times of the day.

Consider your landscape. During spring and summer, greenery reflects on the side of your home. If you are considering a red tone, now is the time to look carefully at how the red interacts with the greens of grass and foliage. Red and green are on opposite ends of the color wheel and can cause some “vibration” when abutted. Ultimately, you want to select a color that harmonizes with its surroundings.

Decide on a sheen. Sheen has a lot to do with how color reads. The higher the sheen, the more the light reflects, and this can make the color appear lighter in exterior applications. Less sheen means that the light diffuses, and the color may appear softer and deeper. In general, colors tend to read lighter in exterior applications.

Go warm with gray. Shades in the gray family are among the trickiest to work with. Because gray is made of several different hues, the undertones can dictate how the color will read, and grays tend to bend into purple. Opt for warm-toned versions of the color that verge into mushroom or even taupe; earthy grays play well with the greenery of foliage and grass, and respond well to cooler and warmer light alike.

Ask an expert. In the end, remember, it’s just paint. Although choosing the color of your home can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be stressful. And if you do get stuck, there are professionals—like Baker!—who are more than happy to help guide you to your perfect color.

Christy Baker’s Tried and True Exterior Paint Hues:

TSG Tip 214 from Christy Baker of Pigment in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pigment specializes in custom paint finishes and “re-fabbing” furniture.