Guidelines For Choosing Exterior Paint Colors

Choosing new exterior paint colors is a decision that some homeowners agonize over.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.

“By following a few simple guidelines, every homeowner can create an attractive exterior color scheme that will beautify his or her home,” she says.  Here’s what Zimmer advises homeowners to key in on:


1.  Architectural style of the home. “Some styles of architecture look best in a particular color, while others welcome an imaginative color choice.   For example, a Greek Revival home virtually demands a white exterior, while Victorian homes, with all their fretwork and gingerbread, can be painted in a rainbow of colors,” says Zimmer.

Likewise, owners of historical homes or those that mimic them may want to choose colors from a traditional, historically-accurate color palette, while those who live in contemporary-style homes have more freedom in choosing a color scheme.

2.  The natural environment. The natural surroundings of a home can be a great source of inspiration for color ideas, says Zimmer, who maintains that a home looks best when its color scheme harmonizes with the environment.

“Homes in a beach setting look great in oceanic colors like blue, blue-green, coral and turquoise, while those in the desert look very attractive when painted in the natural palette of that landscape – dusty gold, terra cotta, muted red, and olive,” she says.

If your home is located in a tree-dotted landscape, think in terms of your local earthy hues – paint colors in the green and brown families are especially appropriate.

3.  “Fixed” colors on the home. Another important consideration involves the “fixed” colors that are already present on a home.  Brick and stone have colors, as do roofing shingles.  It’s important to select a paint scheme that is compatible with these existing architectural elements.

4.  Color compatibility with neighboring homes. “The ideal exterior color scheme enhances both the appearance of a home and the look of the entire neighborhood,” says Zimmer.  When selecting a color scheme, she suggests that homeowners walk down their street and take notes on the colors used on nearby homes.

“When the inventory is complete, visit your local paint store and try to find color cards that match what you’ve seen on your neighbors’ homes.  Line them up in the order of the homes on your street, leaving a gap for your home.  Then see how different paint colors would look on your home in relation to your neighbors,” says Zimmer.

5.  Color restrictions. Before purchasing the paint, make sure the color scheme you’ve selected doesn’t run afoul of any local color restrictions, advises Zimmer.  “Designers of townhouse communities and condominium complexes have long recognized the importance of house-to-house color compatibility, and many of them have strict rules concerning the colors you can paint your home,” she says.

Whatever color scheme you ultimately decide upon, Zimmer says that it’s important to use top quality 100% acrylic latex paint when doing exterior painting.

“Top quality 100% acrylic paints are extremely durable and resist fading, so they’ll faithfully retain your carefully chosen color scheme for years to come,” she says.

“Plus, these paints often cover existing colors in fewer coats and some even function as both primer and paint.  So, even though they cost a little more than ordinary paint, they often end up being the more economical choice!”

For more advice on home painting, visit the Paint Quality Institute website at

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