Mass Tones, Undertones, Color Wheels…Oh My!

craftsman home

Exterior House Painting, Mass Tones, Undertones, Color Wheel, Paint, Home Decor, Exterior

Painting the exterior of your home can prove to be the most challenging design choice you will encounter.  It can transform the curb appeal in a single day…consequently, it can destroy it as well.  The trends will come and go and then come back again, the key is understanding undertones and pairing colors and fixed elements that work well together to create curb appeal.

Following a few simple rules will help you to avoid expensive, color mistakes.

  1. Identify what elements on your home are staying.  Permanent features such as brick, stone, cement, and wood, etc.  will have an impact on the color and undertone of the chosen paint.
  2. Decide on a general color.  Depending on the architecture and style…many people are choosing Gray, White or some form of Beige.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple because within these colors, are hundreds of shades and undertones.
  3. Undertones are best identified in comparison…not standing alone.  Therefore, it might be difficult to see the green undertone in a blue until you hold it up against a pure blue.  Color wheels can help with comparison.

So let’s break down each of these steps a bit further and establish a clear game plan so that the right colors are identified.

Perfectly undertoned white for this brick home
  1. Fixed Elements:  We will want to coordinate our paint around these elements.  So, if the home is all brick, identify what colors are in the brick:  Oranges, Reds, Grays, Blues, Beiges, etc.  If the fixed element is stone, identify whether the stone has more gray, orange, yellow, etc. The roof is another fixed element that must be taken into consideration when picking a paint color. There are many fixed elements that can be part of a home’s exterior:  Wood, Cement, Stone, Brick are just a few big examples.
2.  What color are you gravitating toward?  There is the Mass Tone  (that is what you easily identify).  The Mass Tone is the recognizable color…green,    blue, red, white, gray.  Once you have selected a Mass Tone…we then can move on to picking the correct shade/undertone.
3.  The Undertones are the trickier colors that hide underneath the Mass Tone.  The more colors that are thrown into the mix, so to speak, the trickier it becomes to determine the undertone.  So, in determining whether that White color (Mass Tone)  that you love has the right undertone, you will have to compare it to pure White.  Then, the slight green, blue or maybe pink will present itself.  And voila!  You have an undertone.


It’s important to identify the undertone of a paint color because selecting colors with harmonious undertones is the secret to creating a successful color scheme. Designers use undertones to seamlessly make the colors work together.  If you think like a designer, your paint color will always coordinate with your fixed elements AND your personal style. Not a designer? That’s why we’re here to help. Learn more about our exterior design services today!

 Happy Painting!