CHOOSING EXTERIOR PAINT COLOURS
Choosing exterior colours is one of the most challenging decisions a homeowner can make. Without a solid education in colour it’s easy to end up with one of the two evil twins, bland or boldly bad. Many homeowners simply throw up their hands in defeat and repaint in the same colours – what a shame.
People often turn to web sites with interactive programs that allow them to change exterior colours on either a preset series of homes (maybe you’ll find one that looks like yours) or to upload a photo and then alter the colours.
While this can be helpful in order to get a broad sense of how things might look the fundamental flaw is that a computer screen cannot accurately represent texture.
Texture and light have a profound impact on colour that’s why seeing a colour “in situ” (meaning in the space or location) is so important.
As an artist and set designer I know from experience that size and perspective are critical to the outcome and must also be taken into consideration. Things always change in the transition from two dimensions to three and frankly no, I don’t think the advent of 3D imagery on computers will improve things very much.
Looking at colours on a computer screen (or in a magazine) and the reality of paint under varying natural light is like going to Las Vegas to see the Eiffel Tower, it’s just not the real thing.
When choosing exterior colours there are several factors to keep in mind.
Undertone: if the neutral colour that you are considering has any undertone of another colour in it, let’s say pink, then the pinkish tone will become more pronounced as it is applied. Thus turning your desire for neutral beige into the pink house and the task of explaining the results to your neighbours.
Light: colours appear lighter under daylight, this is coupled with the fact that colours always become lighter in the transition from paint chip to painted surface.
Contrast: the colour you chose for the body for the house will appear different depending upon what colour you use for your trim and vice versa. In general, colours look darker against white but with exteriors there can be exceptions to the rules. The amount of body colour is so much greater than trim colour, so a mid tone blue for example, will seem light and airy with white trim. Put the same colour with black trim and the blue will seem more serious and grounded. The number of windows and the size of their frames must also be taken into consideration. Speaking of windows, please don’t be a slave to the harsh bright white or awful beige of metal windows. The look of your home should not be dictated by the uninspired two colour palette of a factory. In most cases you would be far better off to do all that you can to draw attention away from these windows rather than have them be the highlight of your house.
Saturation: while painting a room within your house is similar to amplifying a musical instrument, painting the exterior is like a large outdoor concert. Think carefully about colour intensity or how “bright” a color is versus something that is more grayed out. Blues and yellows have a tendency to intensify more so than other colours. Be aware also of the difference that sheen level (ranging from flat to high gloss) can have on a colour. Most paint manufacturers offer tester pots but these typically only come in one sheen level. Ask to see samples of the variety of finishes that are available for their exterior paint products.
Stay realistic about the nature of paint and what it can and can’t do. Don’t expect a colour to look the same under all lighting conditions and on all parts of the house. Colours change depending upon light, which is really a wonderful thing as it shows we are living in a natural world and not a phony controlled environment.
The exterior of your home is the face that you show to the world. A new coat of paint and the right selection of colours can work wonders and give you the confidence to show that face with pleasure and pride. Keeping the above key factors in mind regarding paint and paint colours will ease the process and help you to stay clear of the two evil twins.