Figuring out which exterior paint colors to use just got a whole lot easier.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated February 14, 2019
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Exterior paint colors may not be the most glamorous of paint colors—they tend to stick to neutrals, with a limited range of options for front doors, shutters, and more—but they’re incredibly important. Curb appeal is the overall appearance of the front of your home, and a good exterior paint color selection, with well-implemented landscape design ideas and routine home maintenance, can make or break it, which is just one of many reasons picking exterior paint colors should be taken very, very seriously.

Homeowners with painted brick houses might have a slightly easier time of it than those with siding, trim, shutter, and front door paint color decisions to make, but picking the right exterior paint colors is not an easy process for anyone. Go too neutral, and your house looks nondescript and boring; go too big, and you’ll have a color disaster on your hands—plus the Home Owners Association breathing down your neck.

Fortunately, there’s a very easy rule that can help make the whole thing easier, courtesy of paint pro Tina Nokes, who owns Neighborly company Five Star Painting Loudoun.

“I give people a rule of thumb, and that is think in threes,” Nokes says. “If your siding is one color and your trim is another color, then you’d want to keep your shutters and doors the same color.”

Nokes calls the front door the focal point of the front of the house, and many people use that focal point as an opportunity to add a pop of color to a home’s exterior. Doing so is actually a high-impact way to make a home look better, but only if the color fits with the surrounding exterior paint colors and is part of Nokes’s rule of threes.

The rule works for almost everyone, even if you don’t have shutters (or some other exterior feature). “Let’s say you don’t have shutters,” Nokes says. “So you have your siding and your trim—pop your door in a different color. Don’t make it your trim color.” People with painted brick homes can consider the brick one color, shutters a second, and the front door a third—the rule of three is, in this case, for all.

Sticking to three different exterior paint colors looks good, Nokes says, and can offer a feeling of balance. Going with more colors—so four or more—can be too much and overwhelm the eye, and painting everything the same color can be a little boring, Nokes says. Three different colors is the Goldilocks-inspired, just-right balance.