Tricks for Choosing Exterior Paint Colors

Tips and Tricks for Choosing an Exterior Color Palette {Paint It Monday} The Creativity Exchange

Porpoise by Sherwin Williams


Farrow & Ball, Pantalon 221


Spring is almost here and I know a lot of you are starting to look at painting the exterior of your home.  I receive emails almost daily from readers wondering where and how to start in choosing exterior paint colors that are ideal and perfectly compliment the exterior of a home.  Most of the time, readers have contacted me after they have agonized for weeks over colors and just have no idea how to make a final decision.

(By the way, all of the images in this post have the name of the  paint color directly below the image).


Chestnut Sherwin Williams

Last year, I shared a post with my tricks for choosing exterior trim colors here.  Today I thought I would combine last year’s post with today’s post on my tricks for choosing an exterior color palette to help with the process if you’re thinking about paint your home.   There are some really easy tricks that you can use that can make the decision a lot easier and less agonizing and more systematic.

Before I get into my tricks, below is last year’s color palette that I pulled together some of the most popular exterior trim colors:


Tips and tricks for choosing the perfect exterior trim color {The Creativity Exchange}


Those colors above are still really popular today and over the last few weeks, I have researched more popular exterior colors and pulled my favorites together in another palette to give you even more inspiration:


Tips and Tricks for Choosing an Exterior Color Palette {Paint It Monday} The Creativity Exchange

These colors in the above palettes are great starting points as you begin to look at colors.  If you combine this information with my tricks below, you should not have any problems zoning in on your ideal colors.

So let’s jump right in;


1) Choosing a color palette for the exterior of the home works the exact same way as it does for choosing interior colors.  Zoning in on the undertones of the exterior staples of a home (things that you cannot change the color) such as brick and stone accents is the best place for you to get started.  If you do not have these staple accents, you will need to decide on a “general” color that you think you might want (i.e, blue, tan, gray, etc..).


Acadia White (trim) by Benjamin Moore. Kendall Charcoal (home color) by Benjamin Moore

The best place to find all-over color and trim color inspiration is to look through exterior of homes on Houzz here, where there are exterior images of more than 228,000 homes (I set up the link to pull up the exterior search for you).  I recommend printing out your favorites and starting a file. If you click on an image that you like, most of the time the designer/builder will mention the exact paint color in the question section. This is a great way to quickly find great colors.


Eider White (Home Color) by Sherwin Williams. (Trim color) Black Fox by Sherwin Williams

2) Once you have zoned in on a “general” color that you want, look to the undertones in your brick and stone to help pinpoint the undertone of the color.  If you have a brick or a stone home, you will only need to choose trim colors.  If you are choosing all-over color in addition to your trim color, choose your all-over color first.


Functional Gray by Sherwin Williams


If you do not have brick or stone to guide you in undertone for an all-over color, my first trick is to use a gray undertone for exterior.  I have found that gray is the great neutralizer when it comes to exterior colors and it calms colors in the bright light and its a safe diffuser.  For example, if you know you want a light tan, look for a light tan that is next to the grays at the paint store.  Same thing if you’re thinking of blue or even white, look for your color next to the gray cards.

3) Once you decide on your all-over color, you will need to decide if you want the trim color to blend in and fade into the color of your home or if you want the color to contrast.

Example of a trim color that blend in and fades:



Examples of trim colors that compliment but contrast:


Wool Skein Sherwin Williams


Zinc by Pratt and Lambert


Urbane Bronze Sherwin Williams

4) Once you decide if you want your color to blend in or contrast, determine “roughly” what shade of color you want.   Another trick that I recommend is that if you have any brick or stone on your home, you can take one of your bricks to Sherwin Williams and have them color match either your darkest or lightest shade brick.  If you do not have an extra bricks, ask Sherwin Williams for a fan deck and match the brick to a paint color in the fan deck.

If you have multi-color bricks and you want your trim color to blend and fade, I recommend choosing the brick color that is the medium shade (not the lightest and not the darkest).  If you want to contrast your brick color, choose the darkest or lightest brick color to match.

For homes that are not brick and you want your trim to blend in, either go up or down one or two shades of the paint color of the home. To contrast, consider going either white (or off white), or dark (black, dark brown or dark gray):

Contrasting with white:

Pure White Sherwin Williams


Dove White Sherwin Williams

Contrasting with dark:


Color Unknown but close to Urbane Bronze by Sherwin Williams



via Me and Jilly

via Me and Jilly

Iron Mountain Benjamin Moore

Another great source for exterior trim inspiration is to look at interior paint colors that you love for possibilities.  One of the most popular and universal interior paint colors that contractors and designers use because they work well with almost anything is Fieldstone and Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore:


Cabinets painted in Fieldstone by Benjamin Moore


Revere Pewter Benjamin Moore

5) Once you have determine “roughly”, what color/shade that you think you want, pick up a sample quart in the color that is close to what you want and paint two large poster boards with the color and tape it to your front door.  Walk out to your street and look at the color first thing in the morning, early afternoon and evening.  Depending on the time of day, a strange hue can pop out.  Take notes about what you like and don’t like about the color at different times of the day.



via Benjamin Moore Color Chats

via Benjamin Moore Color Chats

 Texas Leather Benjamin Moore

If your sample color and hue/undertone is just right but the color is too dark or too light, have the guys at the paint store mix up another sample by either adding 50% white (lighten) or 50% of the next color down on the paint card (darker).  Paint two more poster boards and tape to the door again and observe the color throughout the day.


Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore


If the color is really close to what you want but it has a strange hue and undertone that is not working, tell the guys at the paint store what the problem is (too green, too blue, too beige, etc..) and they will know precisely what color to add to offset the undertone by tweaking and adding a particular color.  Once they tweak your color, get another sample mix and paint the two poster boards again and observe it throughout the day.


Door is Black Beauty Sherwin Williams

If you’re having your home professionally painted, you have one of the greatest sources of information with your paint contractor.  These guys really know what colors work and don’t work and they are always on top of exterior trends because it’s their business and they are asked all of the time to recommend colors.  Talk to them about what colors you are considering and they can quickly point out an conflicts or issues with the colors.

I hope that my little tricks will help eliminate the agony of choosing just the right color.  I know it’s daunting because it’s so expensive to hire a house painter and the thought of hating the color hangs over our heads.  If you do the poster board trick, you will eliminate the worry and will find a color that you love.

Thanks for hanging out with me today and if you happened to miss Paint It Monday last week, you can get to it by clicking the image below:

Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore {Color Spotlight} The Creativity Exchange



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17 Responses to Tricks for Choosing Exterior Paint Colors

  1. Great tips Cyndy. We will be painting our home this spring, and it can be quite a challenge choosing colors. We are changing ours from the existing colors to something new. However, so many in our neighborhood are going to the newer dark colors of trim and such and personally we feel the architecture of our homes do not lend themselves to these types of color. We will most likely stick to a more traditional color palette.

  2. Jen W says:

    Always such great tips and tricks!!

  3. Lois says:

    Beautiful color palattes as always. Drawn to greys with white trim. Great post as always. 😉

  4. What great tips! I think one of the hardest things to do is to choose paint colors for inside and out! These tips really help!

  5. This is something that we’ll be dealing with in the next couple of years, and I’m already thinking about how I want to change the look of our exterior. Right now the trim and color of the house are pretty close shades, and I definitely want more contrast. Of course, I found myself completely drawn in by the Kendall Charcoal house – loooove that look! I am building my folder for exteriors, that’s for sure!

    Great post!

  6. Sandy Coker says:

    This post is awesome! I am in the process of choosing colors for our exterior paint job. Would you happen to know the trim colors on the Mediterranean Patio?

  7. Diane G. says:

    Great palettes…I do want to mention a mistake I made, years ago when choosing a trim color based on ‘a brick’… Our home was a ranch-style in HouTX, built using a long, irregular Mexican brick. It had lots of pink undertones, with some tan bricks scattered in. I used the tan brick to pick my color, hoping to tone down the pink. I ended up with a pink house with yellow trim. I totally disregarded the pink grout! So do take a look at the predominant color of your home. I should have chosen a pinkish tan or brown. (It was very upsetting but we lived with it for years. Luckily, there wasn’t much trim!)

  8. Diana Minutelli says:

    Our home is a grey stucco. We believe it needs to be sealed but that it also needs to be washed before we seal it. We purchased the first product to clean with the intention of returning for the sealer. When my husband cleaned a patch behind a landscape shrub the house turned tan. That was six months ago and we can still see the change in color. We worry about painting b/c we don’t want the house to peel but we don’t want a tan house either! Where do you recommend we go from here?

  9. debbie says:

    Hi Cyndy,

    This could not have come at a better time for us. In the spring we plan to have the exterior of our home painted. Now it is a cream stucco with black door which I really like but the red clay dirt splashes on it and it looks horrible. I am thinking about medium gray with red door or medium tan with Mediterranean blue door (sand and sea). I would love your take on this, too. Love your fabulous blog.

    Take care

  10. anne nakata says:

    thanks for the help ! I really appreciate your sharing … just wondering if you have any other colors to share? we have neighbors with a gray house and so many of your favorites are grays.

    thanks again, anne

  11. adam king says:

    okay so i have a mostly brick tri level with upper of the house being aluminum siding i want to pait the siding but my bricks is a long greyish white brick and need ideas siding was previously white black shutters but want to change it up a tad but really having a hard time finding pics of my bricks to make a descison on siding color any opinion would be greatly appreciated my brick is not painted original to the house and would like to keep it that way live in mi so not sure if that will help with color of the brick

  12. Kari M says:

    Just curious about the name of the white/light trim color on the home painted functional gray from the pottery barn collection at Sherwin Williams? Its the 6th house picture from the top of the page

  13. Angela Eaves says:

    oh my goodness help!
    painters are here and I cannot decide trim and shutter colors to go with wickham gray body! help!!! we have stone on front with colors of pink grey dark gray mustard etc.

  14. dianna caldwell says:

    I am ready to paint the exterior of my home. Bricks are off white. I am thinking of either gray or tan trim. What do you think?

  15. Lisa says:

    My house is a mixture of white & gray with a little of black here and there. What color would you suggest that is not just blah

  16. Heidi says:

    What are your thoughts/feelings on exterior trim color with black fiberglass windows? We still haven’t decided house color, but leaning towards a medium to dark grey. We have stained doug fir trusses at entry and covered porch and stone wrapped columns with stone wainscoting.

  17. Kay says:

    I may have missed it, but I believe roof color should be considered when determining house colors.

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