How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors for Your Home

Tips for Choosing the Best Exterior Paint Colors from Our San Antonio Interior Designers and Architects   

Color selection ain’t for the faint of heart! If you’ve walked into a paint store recently, you’ve probably experienced color overwhelm. Thousands of hues are available, ranging from selections like “Gentleman’s Gray” to “Manchester Tan” to “Touch of Pink.” There are hundreds of shades of white to choose from alone! Is your home more suited for a “Crisp Linen,” “White Dove,” or, our favorite, “Swiss Coffee?” (Yes, that is a shade of white.) Don’t fall victim to the over-saturated market of paint colors. Our San Antonio interior designers and architects will teach you how to choose exterior paint colors for your home. We reveal the primary exterior color considerations, color trends, and our top six designer tips for picking the perfect shades. 

White Home Exterior by AK
White Home Exterior
Photo by Amity Kett

The Three Main Color Selections for Home Exteriors 

When it comes time to choose exterior paint colors for your home, know that there are three main selections you will have to make—field, trim, and accent colors.  

Field Color 

When picking exterior paint colors, the field color is the main body color of the house. This selection is applied to any siding or stucco and should coordinate with any stone or brick elements. Neutral colors tend to work better as field colors. 

Trim Color 

The trim color is the secondary color applied to window trim, ceilings, overhangs, railings, and columns. The trim can be lighter or darker than the field color. White is a classic option that will work with a range of architectural styles.  

Accent Color 

An accent color is reserved for the front door, shutters, and specialty trim pieces, creating a feature that catches the eye. When it comes to accent colors on a home exterior, less is more. 

Exterior Home Color Trends to Consider 

Consider your home’s architectural style, your neighborhood’s streetscape, and recent color trends when selecting exterior paint colors. Balancing these three considerations will help create a home that feels fresh while honoring its architectural integrity. 

Historic Color Palettes

Make sure your exterior color selections are in keeping with the architectural style of your home. For example, a mid-century modern home may utilize teal or coral pastels, while an Art Deco house employs bolder emerald and sapphire accent colors. Colors are associated with time and place, so make sure your selected shades align with the period of your home. 

Historic Color Palette Photo by AK
Colors are associated with time and place.
Photo by Amity Kett

Regional Color Palettes 

Color selections also vary by region, which can be as large as a country or as small as a street. Look to your neighbors for color inspiration. Are they using neutrals on their home exteriors, or is your street dotted with bright and bold bungalows? Your home should tie in with the streetscape rather than draw unwanted attention. Take the opportunity to ask your neighbors what colors they selected and get to know them. 

Monochromatic Color Schemes  

Monochromatic exterior color schemes are becoming increasingly popular. A monochromatic scheme uses the same color on all the home’s exterior elements, sometimes with slight variations in value or shade. As a result, it appears as though the house was dipped in one color. This design choice is impactful and works well with contemporary homes. 

Monochromatic Color Palette Photo by by DK Studio
Monochromatic Color Palette
Photo by DK Studio

Accented Color Schemes 

Accented exterior color schemes are classic. Accent and trim colors call attention to detailing, architectural elements, and, of course, the front door. Accented color schemes can be complementary or rely on light and dark contrast.  

Natural Exterior Paint Colors by DK Studio
Accented exterior color schemes are classic.
Photo by DK Studio

Light vs. Dark Color Palettes for Home Exteriors  

There is often some debate over whether the best exterior house color schemes are light or dark. Here are a few considerations to review when deciding to go with a light or dark exterior color palette. 

Light Color Scheme Considerations 

Color plays with our perceptions of size and scale, and a light-colored house often appears bigger than it really is. For those living in small Craftsman bungalows, this may be an appealing benefit. Lighter colors also tend to stand out from the landscape, making the home more prominent on the street. Be careful when selecting light exterior colors, as they tend to reflect other colors around them, altering their appearance. 

Light Color Palette Photo by DK Studio
Light Color Palette
Photo by DK Studio

Dark Color Scheme Considerations

Recently, dark exterior paint colors inspired by the Art Nouveau and psychedelic design movements are trending. Dark colors and rich earthy hues, like avocado and harvest gold, can give a home a grounded and elegant look. However, darker homes tend to appear smaller in size and blend in with the landscape. For homeowners who value privacy, a house that recedes into the streetscape may be an asset. 

Dark Color Palette by DK Studio
Dark Color Palette
Photo by DK Studio

6 Designer Tips on How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors 

1. Form First, Color Second 

Our San Antonio residential design team believes in a form first, color second approach when building or renovating a home’s exterior. When presenting renderings, our team leaves them uncolored so we can work together with clients on architectural design choices without distraction. Once those design choices are finalized, we can highlight them with color.  

Form First by AK Rendering
Our San Antonio residential design team believes in a form first, color second approach.
Rendering by Amity Kett

2. Coordinate Paint Colors with Material Selections  

The exterior materials of your home, like the stone, brick, roof, and window frame choices, all influence paint color selections. Exterior paint colors will have to be coordinated with existing materials, eliminating many hues right off the bat.   

Accent Exterior Colors Photo by DK Studio
Coordinate paint colors with the exterior materials.
Photo by DK Studio

3. Make a House Painting List 

There are probably more elements that need painting on your home exterior than you think. Create a house painting checklist to make sure no feature is forgotten. Elements to include are fascia, soffits, porch ceilings, trim, siding, stucco, shutters, railings, columns, doors, and corbels. 

4. Test Every Paint Color 

Never apply a paint color to the exterior of your home without testing it. Our residential design team recommends painting colors on individual boards and moving them around the site to see the color in different lighting throughout the day. Sometimes, we even create mockup walls to view paint selections next to the stone, brick, and other material samples. 

5. Take Your Time Choosing Exterior Paint Colors 

Don’t rush exterior color selections. Know that it takes time to pick the right color, and the job won’t be completed in just one afternoon. Take time to browse the paint store, check out neighboring homes, and sit with the options. 

6. Know That Color Can be Emotional 

Like we said at the beginning, color selection ain’t for the faint of heart! For many homeowners, choosing the right color can be an emotional process. Colors will often trigger memories, feelings, and moods. Make sure you find the right combination to welcome you home every day.  

Need help selecting exterior paint colors?   

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