4 Things to Know About Picking Exterior Paint Colors

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4 Things to Know about Picking Exterior Paint Colors

Picking exterior paint colors is the scariest part of the project for most homeowners

San Diego Painting Company The process seems fraught with peril: What if your house ends up looking garish and (even worse) everybody sees? What if it goes from “old, outdated eyesore” to “expensively painted eyesore”, and now you’ve spent your whole budget and it’s too late to change anything? Painting your home exterior is about the most public design decision you can make for your home. What if that happy yellow color that you thought would be so cheerful and unique, now just looks neon-bright and angers your neighbors?

If the thought of choosing exterior paint colors makes you want to clean your pool, mow the lawn, or tackle your tax returns instead, you’re not alone. There are unique challenges to choosing the right exterior paint colors. The surface area (the whole outside of your house) is huge, which makes it really hard to visualize the result from just those tiny paint chips or “exterior color palette” brochures. You’ll be spending a pretty penny to get this done. Success or failure hinges on the right choice of color. And how can you evaluate and choose color properly when paint colors look so different when they’re outside in direct sunlight?

Thankfully, there are some key principles that can help you make that choice with much more confidence! Here are 4 key guidelines we feel every homeowner must know about picking exterior paint colors

1) If your home has existing stone or brick areas that won’t be painted, your stone or brick has more of a say in your home’s exterior colors than you do.

Like it or not, this is true. Unless your house has only wood clapboard siding (or synthetic equivalent), painted wood trim, and no other materials, your options are limited by whatever unpainted materials were used on your home’s façade.

Many homes have entire sides of their home faced in brick or stone, or perhaps the lower half, or maybe just some entry columns wrapped in the local stone. (By the way, we use “natural material” to describe stone here, but our color guidelines apply even if yours is a manufactured or cultured stone.) If your house is more contemporary, it may have large areas of unpainted concrete, or other building material – This is San Diego, after al!. Any paint color you select MUST “play well” with these materials!

The very first step in choosing exterior paint colors is to take these non-painted surfaces into account, no matter how little you pay attention to those areas ordinarily. You’ll do this by determining the “undertones” of those natural materials. 

Undertones can range from pink-beige to blue-gray to taupe. Whatever those undertones are, you need to know them so you can design your paint color to coordinate. Otherwise, your newly-painted exterior will look like a poorly-designed hodgepodge of clashing colors. (Examples of this in real life are, sadly, easy to find.)

2) Even if you love bright colors personally, go with a more muted color on your home exterior...

Why? Because unless yours is a beach house, or one of San Diego’s historic Victorian “painted ladies”, bright or saturated colors on an exterior can look artificial, unnatural, and honestly, even a bit tacky.

Once you know your stone’s undertone, you can decide on which neutral color will look good with it. It won’t be a strong color! A beach house in Pacific Beach can get away with turquoise blue or mint green (especially with lots of contrasting white trim), but otherwise, you’re probably not picking brights for your home’s exterior. 

Even if you love color, a neutral is your best choice, nine times out of ten. Save the accent color for your front door! Your eyes over time, and your neighbors will thank you.

3) If you want a white or off-white home, you won’t get to pick an actual bright white

A common mistake is to pick a color that is too light. Colors look MUCH brighter when seen outside. Hold a piece of ordinary notebook paper outside in the bright sunlight and it’ll be almost blinding. You don’t want your house to look like a giant reflector, or have to wear your sunglasses in the summer just to approach your front door!

A good rule of thumb is to pick a color that is two or three “steps” farther down, on a fan deck, from the top of the paint strip. The pretty white homes you see on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest are most likely painted in a beige, “greige” (grey-beige), or creamy color.

4) If you love cool colors like gray, you’ll probably pick something much “warmer” than you expect.

I also love gray (the entire inside of my home is painted in Sherwin Williams “Agreeable Gray”), but most of the time, when people go to the paint store for samples, they pick a gray that is too cool, too blue. Natural sunlight already has a very cool color temperature to it. It’ll “cool down” any color that you see outside, so you need to compensate by picking a color that’s much warmer than you’d expect.

A quick word about testing your colors

Get at least three sample colors and paint them on poster boards. Carry your boards outside and prop them up vertically, in both shade and full sun, to evaluate them. And be sure you hold them right up against your brick or stone! 

You want to see how well your sample colors interact with your fixed natural elements. Too many homeowners paint a swatch of the test color on their existing stucco or wood siding, right in the middle of the wall, rather than against the edge of the brick or stone area. 

Your stone or brick has veto power over your body color. You must consult it, so to speak, when picking your paint color.

To summarize:

Our four guidelines really come down to two important factors when choosing exterior paint colors: whether there are any unpainted natural surfaces like brick or stone, and how light a color you can choose. If you have brick or stone siding on your home, your desired color needs to coordinate well with those finishes, which usually means selecting a darker, warmer color. 

If you want a light color like a white, off-white, or pale gray, going darker and warmer means you’ll be sampling beiges, grays and taupes that’ll “read” as white on your home. 

Make sure you test your colors on poster boards, outside in full sun, to see how they look in real life. It’s amazing how a nice, friendly cream color indoors can look as blinding as a sheet of paper outside! 

Sunlight brightens colors considerably, so make sure you test your color options on some large samples first.

OK, Maybe I Do Need Some Help to Get It Right

When you’re a homeowner, you aren’t alone!  Exterior painting, home interior painting (any room inside your home or business – kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, professional offices and retail spaces – anywhere you’re planning to paint, not just your home’s exterior!) – they all have color considerations you have to consider to realize the most benefit and value from fresh paint!

Procoat Painting provides expert professional color consultations as a part of every one of our painting project estimates.  The best part is our painting estimates are FREE, and there’s NO OBLIGATION. Call Us at (619) 404-2620or Use Our Contact Form and schedule yours today!



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If you are ready to work with the best painting company in San Diego and one of the best painters in San Diego, California, give us a call to set up a free estimate and painting consultation. 619-404-2620. You can also use our Contact Form to get in touch.

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When you take the time to prepare the environment for painting as opposed to just jumping right in, you also have a chance to “clear the slate,” so to speak. You’re working with a totally blank canvas and you can see all of a room, wall, holes, cracks, imperfections, and all.

This is the absolute perfect time to take care of all these imperfections and finally fix those small issues that may have been bugging you for quite some time leaving you with a quality painting project.

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