{exterior painting: how to pick an accent color}

So you’re painting the exterior of your house, and you’ve got the main color picked. That’s a good start, but the next choice is often more important. How will you choose the accent color — the color of your door, trim, or shutters? It’s all a matter of taste, but we have some time-tested guidelines to help you along the way.


Chances are, your main color won’t be loud or highly saturated — unless you’re trying to paint your home Vikings Purple — but your accent color can be bolder. If your siding is toned-down, your accent should be pumped-up, and vice versa. For a white house, you can pick any color you want as an accent — except an off-white, which would just look like you forgot which paint to buy.

A bright red door is a classic choice for a white house. You could go a bit more contemporary or trendy with a coral or orange.

If you have a brightly colored house, though, pick an accent color that isn’t so saturated — either a neutral or a color with a bit more white, black, or gray in the mix.

This lilac-purple bed and breakfast chose a gray accent, but snuck in an aqua blue for its soffit:

Credit: Collinwood House

Credit: Collinwood House Bed and Breakfast

Pair Primary and Secondary

Here’s a quick color wheel primer (yep, the pun was intended):

Red, yellow, and blue are primary colors.

Orange, green, and purple are secondary colors.

So, if you have a green house, you could choose a  yellow:

Painted Lady House

If you have a blue house, you might choose a bright green:

Dealing with Tricky Neutrals

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what colors would look good with a gray, brown, or greige. Here’s a tip if you’ve got a complex neutral: find it on a paint strip. At the bottom of the strip, you’ll find a more saturated version of the color to help you determine if it’s more of an orange, red, green, or blue. Then choose a saturated color from the opposite side of the color wheel for your accent. Here are the complementary pairs:

Here are the complementary pairs:

  • Red with green
  • Yellow with purple
  • Blue with orange

This home is tan with barely-there orange-yellow undertones. Its bright, pale blue-green door is a sublime accent.

Credit: One King's Lane

Credit: One King’s Lane | Norman Pogson/Alamy | Looks like Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue

Whether you go big and bold or soft and subtle, the accent color will definitely define the character of your home. Don’t leave the choice to chance. Consult the color experts at your nearest Hirshfield’s location in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

Since Frank and Elizabeth Hirshfield opened their first store in 1894, it has been our mission to do the best job possible meeting customer needs and solving customer problems. Hirshfield’s. People and products you can trust.

One Response to “{exterior painting: how to pick an accent color}”

  1. {fall painting tips: when is it too cold to paint?} | Hirshfield's Color Club Says:

    […] skipped during the summer. It’s not too late to paint your front door, exterior walls, or outdoor trim, but the clock is […]

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