How to Enhance Your Commercial Building with Color

July 1, 2011

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Painting commercial buildings is part of every commercial building management budget.

Good use of color will draw in customers from the target market niche.

A commercial building that is well maintained and is an asset to its neighborhood will also help deter graffiti.

When choosing a color for a commercial building, there are five factors to take into account:

      1. Type of business
      2. Customer demographic
      3. Type of paint
      4. Community
      5. Region

Type of Business

An office building needs different color associations than a residential building. A walk-in clinic needs different colors than a fast food outlet. When painting commercial buildings, keep in mind the type of business it is to draw, and choose your color palette accordingly. Here are some examples of color associations:

  1. Bright reds, yellows, and oranges are associated with dynamic things. They are commonly used in association with food. Brightness can be enhanced by contrasting with dark details. A good starting rule of thumb when painting commercial buildings is to never to make red the dominant color.
  2. Greens are calming and peaceful. Blue greens are a common choice for clinics and other high stress places. Green also suggests environmental concerns. Combinations of greens and light browns are popular in apartment buildings for a feeling of comfort and spaciousness.
  3. Blues are clean and restful. They are in common use among traditional businesses, and are replacing browns in popularity.
  4. White, violet, pink, gray, brown, and black are best used as accent colors, although grays and browns still have some carrying power as traditional, honest colors, and soft pinks are popular in resort areas. Red with white stucco is a popular combination and has positive associations, but large areas of white are difficult to maintain, and may draw grafitti.

Color Branding: A pattern of red and white stripes instantly raises thoughts of a certain type of fried chicken. This is an example of color branding. In some types of businesses such as fast foods, customers usually don’t set out to find a specific place, and are often drawn in by a familiar brand. For this reason, shelf appeal is just as important for commercial buildings as it is for products. A business that plans to open outlets elsewhere may wish to start establishing color branding for their buildings. Most franchises have already tested their color palette on their desired customer demographic, and building color may be part of the franchise agreement.

Customer Demographic

Some colors are considered classic, others shocking, but either may be appropriate for a restaurant depending upon what kind of customers it wants to draw. Younger demographics are drawn by more intense color, while older customers are reassured by sedate colors. A modern concept restaurant appealing to young, hip professionals may be able to get away with all black. Higher-rent apartment buildings have a distinctive color scheme, but are rarely bold. To reduce tenant turnover in low-rent apartment buildings, add an exterior mural. Never use too much red in any commercial building, since this can deter potential customers.


There was a time when all barns were painted red because red was the only color that would stand up to the elements. Today the choices are greater, but not all paints stand up to all climates equally, and not all colors are standard or available in all types of paints. Custom-mixing may cost much more than standard colors. Ask your industrial painting contractor which paint colors are standard in the types of paints best for your conditions in your region, and which ones have to be custom-mixed.


Painting commercial buildings presents different challenges in different parts of the city. Color can grab attention, help a commercial building blend into its surroundings, or even make it into a neighborhood anchor. A walk-in clinic in a modern area of the city may choose a cool, modern exterior color, while the same clinic in an arts enclave may be painted with bright murals. In general, commercial buildings should be painted to complement their environment, but also to stand out in the way the business wishes to be presented.


Different regions have different expectations of acceptable building color. The same pastel blues and pinks may be conservative in a resort region, but daring in a traditional city with deep winters. In most cases, it is best to paint commercial buildings following the norms of the area. Know your region, and paint your commercial building to fit in.

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