What to Consider When You Paint Parking Lot Areas

Ensure success with your pavement painting maintenance by working with the best parking lot paint. Learn about water-based vs oil-based line paints & more.

Judson Burdon
Posted by Judson Burdon on April 11

Which Paint to Use

Standard paints will not adhere properly to either asphalt or concrete. Some types, such as latex and acrylic, will peel off of the surfaces in a very short time. They never completely adhere. There will always be bubbles and you can practically push painted lines off of the pavement. The result is so poor, you would have been better off drawing lines in chalk. That’s why it is absolutely essential to have traffic paint.

Special asphalt and concrete paints are specifically formulated to adhere to the pavement. They may be water-based or solvent-based. The solvent-based varieties are sometimes referred to as alkyd, although that is not particularly accurate, since alkyd is merely one of the ingredients as a binder.


Video: How to choose the best parking lot paint

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Water-based paints are considered more environmentally friendly because most solvents are sources of volatile organic compounds that are bad for the environment. It is best not to use solvent-based paints in warehouses or other indoor facilities because of the fumes.

The fumes can cause headaches and have been indicated as a cause of what is called “sick building syndrome”. Even after the paints dry, the fumes linger on for days or even longer, especially if the building is well-insulated and the fresh air exchange is limited.

It is of the utmost importance to check your local laws as well. Many states have banned solvent-based entirely. In which case, there is no need to second guess what type to use. Water-based will be what you use exclusively.

You can paint parking lot areas that are outdoors or in covered spaces with either solvent-based or water-based paints. The Solvent Based Paints are more expensive but also more durable. Solvent-based paints are recommended for high traffic areas such as roadways, airport runways and racetracks.

Related: Best Kind of Pavement Paint for Long-Lasting Parking Lot Lines


How to Price a Linestriping Job Profitably

  • What tools & equipment you should start with
  • How to determine difficulty level of the job
  • How to estimate prep work
  • The best traffic paint to use

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Which Paint Is Right For You?

You might think of the water-based paints as best for general purposes, or as your only option where local laws specify. If you want to paint parking lot areas surrounding a small business or a shopping center, the water-based paints will work just fine, as long as you choose one formulated for asphalt and concrete. Even mall owners with heavy traffic often choose water-based simply because they dry faster. That way the parking area is closed to traffic for as short a time as possible.

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Other Paints

For painting curbs, posts and similar items typically found in larger lots, chlorinated rubber paints are sometimes chosen. These paints dry to a rubbery texture. They are resistant to chipping and may be the most durable. The expense makes them a less popular choice for lines and stripes.

Thermoplastic is another of the more expensive choices. As the name suggests, the paints contain plastic polymers that make them more durable.

There is much to consider when you paint parking lot areas. Basically, you want to choose something as durable as possible that is also affordable, and meets your local law requirements.

How To Paint Your Parking Lot

Getting the right gear to paint parking lot is easy once you go through the steps. Forgetting just one item will wreak havoc with your plans! Imagine going through clearing the lot of vehicles twice because you forgot to get enough paint. Let’s go through a simple run-down of what you’ll need.


Line Stripe Paint: Here’s a simple parking lot paint calculator where you can easily put in how many linear or square feet you’ll be striping. Remember, you’ll need to do this for each color you are using (in other words, don’t forget blue for the handicap spaces). You’ll also need to decide on water or oil-based paint. Be sure to check regulations and laws, as there are places where oil-based is banned. Finally, to decide between pails or cans you’ll need to decide on…

A Way To Apply The Paint: Of course, you can use a roller, depending on the size you have to paint parking lot. Line stripers make the job far easier, and there’s the right size for every need. It doesn’t have to break the bank either. Once you pick the right way to apply the paint for you, you’ll know whether you need pails or cans of Aerosol paint.


Stencils: To paint parking lots, you have to take stencils into account. At the very least, you’ll need to mark the handicap stalls. You may also need numbers for assigning stalls, or letter stencils, and don’t forget about the word stencils - like Fire Lane and No Parking, and the roadway stencils.

Grit: If you’ve ever watched an auto race on a street circuit in the rain, you’ll already know the painted lines are where the cars slip and lose grip. Humans slip too, so it can be really important to use grit, especially in places like the diagonal lines of a pedestrian crosswalk. Applied to the wet paint parking lot, forgetting to buy grit means the paint has time to dry! (For maximum adhesion you paint, grit, then paint again)

Reflect: Hi-visibility glass beads also need to be applied when the paint is still wet. These greatly increase the visibility of the markings, and are very reflective. The only downside to them is the snow plows are hard on them, and they need redoing more often.

Final Pieces Of Gear: I know it seems obvious, but, too often we overlook the obvious! Find the gear you need to block off your lot; traffic cones, pylons, caution tape, sawhorses. Finally, have sealcoat on hand for covering up any paint spills or mistakes.

Jobs like this are time-sensitive; you want to get your parking stalls back in use as fast as possible. Make your list and get enough paint in all the colors you need and in the right type (can or pail). Figure out how you’re going to apply the paint. Get your stencils ready, and the grit or glass beads if you’ve decided to use them. Work out how you’ll block access to your parking area. There you are, a complete overview of the gear you’ll need to paint parking lot.

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Snow Removal Causes Pavement Paint Damage

snow-plow-asphaltSpring thaw is a great time of year, but it also shows us the state of our parking lots and pavement paint after snow removal. Now is the time to spring into action, get out the parking lot paint, and take care of the ravages of winter.


First: Clear It To See It

First and foremost, get out the gas blower and/or power washer to completely clear the asphalt. There’s always a chance the sand and salt have covered over everything. Once it’s clean, you’ll be able to see if the plows scraped off more than just snow! Look for cracks that need crackfilling, test if the sealcoating needs doing, and check the pavement paint for clarity and brightness.

Remember: Crackfilling comes first, and then sealcoating, and parking lot paint last!


Second: Check Your Equipment And Supplies

If this is the first time you’re undertaking this job yourself, our free line striping course is invaluable. Make sure all your line striping equipment is in good working order, including spray guns and tips. Check to see all stencils are in good shape, and you have enough of each type. Ensure you have enough caution tape and pylons to block traffic from your work area. Use our calculator to easily figure out how much pavement paint you’ll need to order, and remember, do this for each color. Write a list as you go to include what you need to purchase (e.g., replacement tips, parts, new equipment, parking lot paint, stencils, etc.)

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With all this in place, you’re ready to spring into action as soon as the weather is dry, and you have temps over 50 Fahrenheit. Need a cheatsheet on when to apply traffic paint? Our downloadable Application Temperature Cheatsheet tells you the lowest and highest temps for applying sealer, asphalt repairs, and parking lot paints. 

Spring cleaning your lot, checking the condition of the asphalt and your supplies will have you set to get out there with your pavement paint and repair the winter damage.

Suggested Reading

Asphalt Kingdom has a huge selection of how-to and informative articles for all things asphalt. Here are some suggested follow-up pages:

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