How to Pick an Exterior Paint Scheme

How to Pick a Paint Color Combination for Your Home's Exterior

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Exterior paint colorsYou’ve mastered the painting process. Grab a swath of swatches. Take home samples of the contenders to test in your home. Pain your favorite color on the walls and enjoy your revamped room.

Now you’re ready to tackle a paint job on a much grander scale: the exterior of your home. The canvas is bigger and so are the stakes. One wrong color choice or an ill-fitting paint scheme and your home sticks out like a sore thumb on your street.

Fortunately, exterior paint colors come with some constraints. Find your creativity within these limitations and you can put together a paint scheme that fits your home — and your neighborhood.

3 tips for picking your paint scheme

Your exterior paint scheme should highlight the most beautiful features of your home. Whether your house has modern simplicity or ornate architectural elements from centuries ago, these guidelines can help you create your home’s color palette.

1. Choose three complementary colors.

Exterior paint color combinations

As a general rule, an exterior paint scheme has three elements: body, accents, and trim. The body color is the main color of your home. The accent color is typically used on doors, shutters, and other smaller spots. The trim color makes windows, door casing, roof edging, and railings pop.

SEE ALSO: How to Paint an Entry Door

Your trim color should contrast with your body color. If your main color is light, paint the trim dark. If you opt for a dark body, go with white or another light color for trim. Accent colors cover smaller areas, so feel free to use a bolder, yet complementary paint choice. Doors, especially, can be great spots for experimentation with color.

2. Consider the colors you can’t change.

3 color house paint schemes

The look of your home is more than three different colors. Your windows, roof, bricks, stonework, sidewalks, driveway, and landscaping are all part of your home’s overall color palette. And changing color in any of those more permanent areas can be much more complicated than a coat of fresh paint. Take cues from these elements — which colors complement and which clash — to build a paint color scheme that ties together your home’s whole exterior.

3. Stick to the style of your home.

The architectural style and era of your home should inform your color choices. Stray too far and your home may stand out in a way you hadn’t intended. You don’t have to limit yourself to the colors of similar homes in your neighborhood. Strike a balance between blending in and coloring outside the lines.

SEE ALSO: Paint Color Trends for Your Home

Matching paint color combinations to your home’s style

Of course you want a paint scheme that fits your house. But how do you know which color set is appropriate for your home’s architectural style?

Neighborhoods tend to sprout up all at once. Look beyond your street and find inspiration in the larger neighborhood. Cruise around the city and you’ll likely find homes of a similar style or era.

Your go-to paint brand can be another good starting point. Often, they’ve done the research and built a “historic” collection of exterior paint colors. If you’re overwhelmed by the number of options, here’s a primer on paint colors in homes common in the South:

  • Modern/Contemporary – Neutrals like white, gray, yellow, and cream paired with surprising, bold accents.

Modern exterior paint scheme

  • Mediterranean/Spanish – Warm, earthy palettes for the body with bright-colored accents.

Spanish Mediterranean Home Color Scheme

  • Traditional – Browns, tans, and other colors in nature surrounding your home and darker accents.

Traditional home color scheme

  • Gothic Revival – Diverse color palette of rich and light hues of green, gold, and blue.

Gothic revival exterior color scheme

  • Southern – White, beige, and pale blues with black or dark accents and trim.

Southern Home Color Scheme

What may seem like a few simple color choices can make or break your curb appeal. And turn off potential buyers if you ever decide to sell. When you take inspiration from your home’s style and surroundings, you’ll love the results.

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