Tips for Choosing the Best Exterior Paint Colour for your Home

Written by: Rose Stephan



Time to read min

Choosing the right paint colour for the exterior of your home can be an overwhelming and stressful process - especially if you’re making that important decision standing in a paint store, staring at hundreds of teeny tiny paint colour chips.

Red country home

It can be tempting to rush when picking an exterior paint colour, but it’s important not to take this decision lightly! There’s definitely a much better, more accurate way to make this decision- but it will require a bit of time and effort on your part.

While it's a necessary starting point to narrow down your top colour choices using the paint colour chips or brochures you gather at your local paint store, I don't recommend you make such an important decision with such a small sample.

I've had to choose exterior paint colours for our own homes in the past, as well as help family, friends and clients with this task, and I've figured out a method of doing so that brings much more confidence to the final decision.

To give you an example of just how serious I take the decision of choosing an exterior paint colour I'll tell you about the process Roger and I went through to make the decision for our former Colonial-style home that we built in 2004. To put it mildly, it was not a quick decision. We actually travelled to Connecticut and Massachusetts twice to study the facade and colours of New England Colonial homes.

paint chips and blue prints
Red country home
Image from Classic Colonial Homes

On our second visit, we just happened upon an entire subdivision of beautiful New England Colonial homes and we took lots of photos for inspiration! We were lucky enough to even speak to one of the homeowners, who ended up giving us a tour of his beautiful home. In the end, we chose a stunning warm red colour for our home’s exterior.

Although it seemed like a rather bold decision at the time, we were thrilled with the finished look and received many compliments! We didn’t allow ourselves to be influenced by the trends at the time, and I don’t think that colour will ever go out of style because of our well thought-out decision.

More recently, when we bought a cottage on Pigeon Lake in 2019, my decision about the exterior colour had to be made much more quickly. The paint on the wood siding was so sun bleached and worn that it was becoming exposed to the elements so Roger booked the painter and I had to come up with a decision fast! Despite having less time, I still did a lot of research and tested at least five different colours until I decided on Benjamin Moore’s “Hale Navy”. I was so pleased with the outcome and believe that changing the colour alone brought such vibrancy and new life to the cottage and boathouse.

Green boat house
blue boat house

While I don’t think it’s necessary to spend countless hours choosing an exterior paint colour, I have learned a number of really helpful “Do’s and Don’ts” that I can share so you can make this important decision with a lot more confidence.

Here are some things you should do (and avoid doing) when picking an exterior paint colour:

Do’s for Picking an Exterior Paint Colour

Do use large paint colour boards.

Trying to make your choice using the small colour chips in a fan deck or in the paint aisle? Using large paint colour boards will make it easier to picture the colour on your home! It’s easy to make your own large colour boards: simply pick up sample size paint cans from the paint store, then paint each of the colours you’re considering on a large piece of bristol board. Leave a white border around the edge of each colour. If you don’t want to DIY, you can order peel-and-stick paint colour samples online from stores like Hello Paint

Do hold up, lean or tack the large colour boards to the exterior of your home.

And be sure to put a white board or paper behind the paint colours you’re considering. If not, the current colour of your home can influence how you see the new colours and it won't be as accurate.  

large paint board

Do think about any fixed areas you won’t be painting.

Do you have stone, brick, wood, or shingles that won’t be painted? Consider the colour and undertone of these fixed elements when choosing the new colour, as they should complement each other. For example, does your stone have a green, grey, or pink-beige undertone? Remember, the fixed elements aren’t going anywhere, and so you shouldn't ignore them when choosing a paint colour that will be right next to them. Your eye (and others) will notice!

Do compare a variety of colours before choosing.

Choosing your home’s exterior paint colour is an important decision. Never go with the first colour you happen to like! You won’t know if it’s the right colour for your home until you compare it to other shades. When you compare, it will be easier to notice undertones, which will help you make your final decision with much more confidence.

outdoor paint

Do look at your colour boards at different times of day.

Paint colour will look different depending on whether it is morning, afternoon or evening.

Move the colour boards around to different sides of your exterior. Look at them against the front of your house, the side, on the porch, at the rear, and anywhere else you can think of. It’s not enough to only tack them up at the front of the house. The same colours could look completely different on the back wall of your exterior!

Do prop or tack up your colour boards to any fixed elements.

Tack up your painted colour boards against the window/trim and any fixed elements like stone or wood. I always find this placement best in order to visualize what the colour will look like on the house. If you tack the large colour boards to a large expanse of exterior wall that has nothing else around it's much more challenging to visualize. 

how to pick exterior paint

Do try to limit the total number of colours.

On the exterior of your home (including body of the house, trim, porch, window frames, soffits, gutters etc.), limit your choice to three or four different colours at maximum.

Do consider looking for classic, timeless colours instead of trends.

Although you may love what is currently trending, the risk is that it may end up looking dated within a matter of years. I tend to lean towards more classic, timeless colours because they will stand the test of time. Don’t base your entire decision on what’s trending or popular on Instagram and Pinterest, or what a blogger is saying about a particular paint colour online. You won’t know whether it’s the correct colour for your home until you test it on your home, keeping in mind the style of your home and its unique fixed elements.

clue cottage home
Image from The Lily Pad Cottage 

Don'ts for Picking an Exterior Paint Colour

Don’t rush this important decision.

This is not a last minute decision you want to be making! It will take time to make the right colour choice. So give yourself the luxury of time to test paint colours and don't wait until a few days before the painter is expected to arrive. 

Don’t choose the colour without testing it first.

I would never choose a paint colour for my home without testing it first and giving myself adequate time to choose it. This is a big decision that will impact the enjoyment and appreciation of your home for years to come. If you rush the decision and don’t test, you could be stuck with a colour you dislike for years to come.

Don’t ever test a sample can of paint directly on your exterior siding if it is wood.

If you’ve narrowed down your colour selections and want to test the final one or two paint colours on the actual siding, go to the paint store and get a stain made in that colour. If you apply paint to your wood siding it will end up peeling off.

exterior paint chips

Still not certain what the right paint colour is for your exterior, or you’d like help selecting the perfect shade? I am a certified colour consultant offering paint colour consultations! Virtual consultations are available no matter where you live, and on-site consults if you live in the Kawartha Lakes area. Just contact me to book yours today!

Sincerely, Roger and Rose