Plan around the elements that are hardest to change. Unless you’re doing a complete renovation, surfaces such as roof shingles or tiles, stonework, pathways and driveways will remain in place. Take these into consideration as you select exterior paint colors.
Look for undertones between them that might inform your palette. Are they warm (beige, khaki, brown and rust) or cool (gray, blue and black)? Consider paint colors that will tie these fixed elements together in a harmonious way.
Choose three or more different paint shades. Essentially, an exterior scheme has three major parts: field color, which dominates; accent color, which brings doors, shutters and other smaller areas to life; and trim color, used for window and door casings, roof edging, railings and other trimwork.
Ideally, the trim color should contrast strongly with the field color. If your main hue is dark, consider classic white trim or another pale shade. A light field color can look stunning with darker trim — like eyeliner for your home, it produces a crisp, dramatic effect. Feel free to go bold with accent colors, but don’t go overboard. A door painted bright red or lemon yellow lends just the right hit of punch. Extending that same shade to the shutters and gables … not so much.
Stuck for inspiration? Most major paint brands offer preselected color palettes that take the guesswork out of coordinating an exterior scheme. An architect or a color consultant also can help you come up with a combination that’s unusual but still attractive.
Never rely on paint chips alone. Just like interior colors, exterior shades can vary significantly from the way they appear on the chip. And because painting an exterior is a bigger undertaking than simply painting a room, you’ll want to get them right the first time.
Buy a quart of paint and test it on an inconspicuous area of your home. Study it at various times of day and under different weather conditions. How does it change with the light? Road testing it is the only way to determine for sure if you’ll be happy with it for years to come.