5 Tips for Choosing Exterior Paint Color

5 tips for choosing an exterior paint color… you’re probably thinking, only 5!! Trying to pick an exterior house color is overwhelming.  You’re expected to pick up little paint swatches and make a call on whether that would look good on your home.  There’s no way! It just doesn’t work like that! So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and second guessing every color you thought you’d like, you should be… it’s too big of a decision to make the wrong choice.  

So, how do you pick the right exterior paint color?  Our brick&batten designers are experts and can help but until then, try these 5 tips for choosing exterior paint color

No. 1//  The Paint Chip Appears Darker

When you get the paint on your home’s exterior it WILL LOOK LIGHTER than what you picked up on the chip.  The natural light outside creates a lighter look on the house, especially on a large surface. That said, different times of day, heavy landscape and shadows, North v. South facing homes, etc.  the color may appear differently; however, it will appear lighter, a half shade or even more. We’ve held up a million chips and seen a million colors “live” on houses.  Trust me, the chip is darker!  Check out the house below… Accessible Beige on chip, in the sun, and in the shade.

Accessible Beige on house

No. 2//   Darken or Lighten a Paint by 25%, 50% or 75%.  

It’s true!  You may ask your paint supplier to darken or lighten your favorite shade of paint to create a difference. If you love a color but it’s just not quite right, you may ask Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams to lighten or darken the shade.  To mix the color you choose, the supplier begins with a can of white base paint (in the sheen you choose). Then, you drop a mixture of other colors into it to get the desired shade. For example, you may do 8 drops black and 4 drops yellow.  To lighten by 50%, you would do 4 drops black and 2 drops yellow. This changes the depth or intensity without really changing the color.  

lighten or darken paint

No. 3//    Textures Add Depth and Shadows

Textures add depth and shadows so paint appears differently.  On stippled, popcorn style stucco, paint will look darker than paint on brick or siding.  The texture of the surface influences color perception. While a smooth surface reflects light and makes colors appear lighter, a porous surface, like stucco, absorbs light, so the color will look darker and closer to the actual paint chip.  The photo below you will see the same color on stucco and cedar siding.  

stucco and cedar siding

No. 4//    Paint Undertones Are a Thing

Unfortunately, paint colors have annoying soul sucking undertones! Even neutral colors are not really neutral.  Light affects how we see color; therefore when light hits the paint, the color changes and finds the root of what that color is made off.  Is it yellow? Blue? Green? Purple? They all have them… it’s finding ways to minimize the undertone by selecting the right shade.  Not to mention, colors with the same undertone blend nicely together, where different undertones create problems!

For example: gray with a blue undertone can appear cooler and more stormy looking.  That type of gray can be a great choice for south or west facing homes but appear cold on a house facing north or east.  So, undertones are definitely a thing. Our brick&batten designers are trained to see undertones and know what works best for each environment.

A good way to look for undertones is to take the paint chip and hold it on a white piece of computer paper.  What’s the first color you see?  Generally, that’s a generic way to find undertones.  Is it a technical tried and true method?  No, but it gives you a general idea. See the photo below.  It’s a Pure White paint chip by Sherwin Williams, sitting on white paper.  Do you see yellow?  I do.  This shade has a cream/ yellow undertone… even though it’s called, Pure White.

Pure White Sherwin Williams

No. 5//    All Paint Finishes and Sheens Act Differently

Sheen determines how your paint will act; therefore, it’s important to understand.  The more matte and flat the paint the less shiny it appears, also, the more it covers.

House Siding:  Wood, Vinyl, HardiPlank, etc.

Go with an eggshell, satin or low luster finish.  Sheen enhances texture; therefore, the more textured the wood, the more flat your finish should be.  Stick to a lower sheen paint for your home’s exterior.  

Exterior Doors, House Trim, Garage Doors

Go with a satin or semi-gloss finish on exterior doors, trim, and garage doors.  Satin or semi-gloss finish will create an exterior color which feels slightly more colorful and bright than your paint chip. On exterior doors and garage doors, I personally prefer satin sheen.  The house trim I prefer semi-gloss, but either will work.  

Masonry: Brick, Block, Stone

Usually masonry is very textured and because of this you can use a satin or eggshell.  This makes lighter color brick easier to hose down and clean. However, I personally prefer low sheen, low luster finish.  I don’t want to see the details and imperfections in all the brick…. Harder to clean or not. A low luster finish has some sheen but not as much as satin and a tad more than matte or flat.  

Guide to Paint Sheens and Finishes

In conclusion, finding the correct exterior paint color is overwhelming, time sucking, and flat out hard to do!  There’s no shame in asking for help.  Our brick&batten exterior designers are trained and have an eye for color, undertones, and textures.  It’s just as easy to paint your house the right color as it is the wrong color… so let’s get it right!