PaintPRO Vol 4 No 2

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Related Readings:
Low VOC Paints
Ceramic Paints
Metallic Paints
Using Glazes
Interior Priming
The Winning Ways of White Paint
Difference Between Primer & Undercoat
Who Needs Paint?
Profile on Design: Metallic Paints
Sprayed Faux Finishes
Great Painting Ideas
Other articles in this issue:
Accent Color for the Home Exterior
Wood Sidings
School Spotlight: NASODA
Paint Stores
Contractor Profile: Barth White
Manufacturer Profile: Faux Effects
Paint Industry News
Paint Product News
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives
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Exterior Paints, Accent Colors

Draw attention to the front of the home and accent those elements that make a beautiful statement. Things like decorative support brackets, scrollwork on cornice boards, flower boxes, shutters, interesting trim along the roof-line or detailing around doors.
By Stacey Enesey Klemenc

“When deciding color, you need to take a holistic approach to the structure, not just the accent color by itself,” says Emmett Fiory, colorist for Fine Paints of Europe in Woodstock, Vermont. “Accent colors work because of the interaction with everything else going on.”

Wheeling them in
A color wheel is a wonderful tool to help make color choices because it allows you to see the relationship between colors, and to mix and match them at a glance. It is methodically arranged and comprises three color categories:

  • Primary — Red, yellow and blue. These basic components are to color what prime numbers are to mathematics. They are used to create all other colors.
  • Secondary — Orange, green and violet. Each of these is a combination of two primary colors.
  • Tertiary — Red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green and blue-violet. These are made by combining a primary and an adjacent secondary color.

A variety of color schemes can be created with a color wheel. Depending on the desired outcome, colors can be grouped to create related, contrasting or discordant schemes.

  • Monochromatic — Use of one color with varying intensities. A tint of a color is made by adding white. Adding black makes a shade. This color scheme produces a very contemporary look.
  • Analogous — Use of adjacent hues, such as red, red-orange and red-violet. Designers often build color schemes around two or three related colors.
  • Complementary — Combining two opposite colors, such as red and green, to create a scheme that seems brighter and more intense. Complementary colors have drastically different wavelengths and can cause optical distortions if they are placed close to each other in a work of art.
  • Split complementary — A combination of three colors: any hue and the two colors adjacent to its complement, such as red, yellow-green and blue-green
  • Triadic — A combination of three colors evenly spaced apart on the wheel, such as red, yellow, and blue
  • Double complement — Use of two pairs of complements, such as yellow and violet, and blue and orange
  • Alternate complement — Use of four colors: a triad and a complement to one of the trio, such as red, yellow, blue and violet
  • Tetrad — Use of four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel: a primary, a secondary and two tertiary colors, such as red, green, yellow-orange and blue-violet

Hence, people should be mindful of the neighbors and the neighborhood. No matter how much the color of the house next door or across the street is liked, don’t use it. Likewise, don’t use colors that will clash with the neighboring houses. A tasteful color scheme should blend with the neighborhood or stand out in a subtle, unobtrusive way.

Seeing is believing
Some color schemes are very reserved while others explode with color. Trying to decide which scheme is right for the job can be confusing to professional painters and homeowners alike. Many houses today are adorned in at least three shades: a siding color, a contrasting color for the trim, and an accent color for the front door and select architectural details.

Whereas most paint companies have color cards and/or preselected combinations to help consumers choose color schemes, some have gone a bit or byte further.

Kelly Moore Paints, for instance, offers two versions of its “Click&Paint” software, a basic program for homeowners and a souped-up variety for contractors — complete with estimate forms, a paint calculator and the ability to export images to a printer. With both, users can import a photographic image from a disk or scanner, outline the areas they want painted and drop in any color from Kelly Moore’s palette.

“The program can make powerful designers out of everyone,” says Lawlor. “It’s also designed to help small painting contractors market themselves better. The material can be personalized with individual logos and can help a painter look more professional.” For a demo of this program, go to

Likewise, Sherwin-Williams has a similar software program but it’s only marketed to residential painting contractors. “It’s so realistic,” Trent says. “It facilitates the whole decision-making process because the clients can see their home in a variety of colors. You can wind your way through the color palette very easily and make adjustments. Contractors have said it has saved them so much time because people can visualize their own home.”

Don’t leave it to chance
“One of the last things to consider is the landscaping. It can make or break the overall look of a home,” says Richardson. She recalls one project that involved a house with yellow siding, bright white trim and black shutters. The owners wanted a new look but they wanted to keep the yellow siding intact. So she matched the siding with subtle yellow trim, deep red-violet shutters and a gloss-black front door, which wasn’t the norm for the neighborhood.

“It looked beautiful,” she says. “But the last thing I told them they had to do to complete the new look was going to be hard. They had to take out all of their red and orange bushes and replace them with bushes and flowers that were green, white, purple or light yellow.”

The owners complied and the next spring, “It was gorgeous when everything came up,” she says. “The purple shutters worked so well and the house still fit in. The landscaping was the icing on the cake. Instead of the warm color scheme they had, it looked like an artist’s painting.”

Accents and the world
An accent color should complement the entire scheme, everything from the landscape to the roof. Blending with the environment is very important, Lawlor says. “You don’t want to use colors that are going to fight with Mother Nature,” however, you do want to establish a presence.

Light greatly influences color. Heavily wooded lots will make colors look darker due to the shade and the trees may also camouflage the house. A yellow may look very strong indoors but can look washed out in strong sunlight. As a safeguard, color samples should always be examined outdoors at various angles and at different times of the day.

“There are things in place you have to cater to and things that dictate where you can go,” says Fiory. “Look at colors and think about how they’ll blend, how they’ll interact. You have to build upon what’s in place.”

One thing that many people forget to take into account is the color of the roof. “A lot depends on how much of it shows,” Richardson points out. “Some play a major role in the color scheme. Others are too high up and aren’t noticeable.”

You also need to consider the color of brick or stone. “Look at the colors in the stonework,” she says, and try to match one of the intertwining hues.

Sometimes the worst thing to do is choose white when they’re so many other options.”

From the soft but lively twangs of the South and the rich, deep tones of the North to the colorful multiplicity of parts of the East and West coasts, accents help create personalities … in this case, it can turn houses into homes. And well-placed accents on a home’s exterior not only speak volumes about the people within, but also they can make an ordinary house sing.


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