What to Consider When You Paint Parking Lot Areas

Painting a parking lot this summer? Read this handy guide to learn about what you should consider when painting parking lot areas.

Judson Burdon
Posted by Judson Burdon on April 11

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Parking lot striping is not there just for decoration. By helping drivers and pedestrians navigate the parking lot, these lines and markings help traffic flow smoother. It also makes the parking lot safer for every one.

You can paint parking lot lines and spaces with special paints created for use on asphalt and concrete. Asphalt is actually a special type of concrete with a petroleum-based binder. So, it is critical to have the right type of paint that will adhere to the asphalt and not wash away. 

Which Parking Lot Paint to Use?

Is it Okay to Use Standard Paints for Parking Lot Line Painting?

Standard paints (such as the ones we use at home) will not adhere to either asphalt or concrete properly. Some types of paints, such as latex and acrylic, will peel off of the surfaces in a very short time.


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Not only will they never completely adhere to the surface. They will form bubbles underneath, and you can practically push painted parking spots off of the pavement.

The result is so poor, you would have been better off painting parking lot lines with chalk. That’s why it is absolutely essential to have traffic paint – the right traffic paint.

Types of Paint for Parking Lot Lines

Special asphalt and concrete paints are specifically formulated to adhere to such pavements. Paint for parking lot lines may be a) water-based or b) solvent-based.

Solvent-based traffic paints are sometimes referred to as alkyd. The term, though, is not particularly accurate since alkyd is merely one of the ingredients used as a binder.


Video: How to choose the best parking lot paint

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Water-based parking lot paints are considered more environmentally friendly. This is because most solvents used in solvent-based paints emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for the health and the environment. And because of this, it is best not to use solvent-based paints in warehouses or other indoor facilities.

The fumes can cause headaches and have been indicated as a cause of what is called “sick building syndrome.” Even after the paint has dried, 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 when choosing paint for parking lot lines. 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 for parking lot line painting.

You can paint parking lot areas that are outdoors or in covered spaces with either solvent-based or water-based paints. Keep in mind though that solvent-based paints are a little bit pricier. The good news, though, is that it is more durable.

We recommend solvent-based paints 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 Traffic 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 Used For Parking Lot Line Painting

Chlorinated Rubber Paint

For painting parking lot 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, however, makes them a less popular choice for painting parking lot lines and stripes.

Thermoplastic Paints

Thermoplastic paint is another option for line stripers. As the name suggests, the paints contain plastic polymers that make them more durable. Keep in mind, though, that this option is more expensive than others. 

There is much to consider when you paint parking lot areas. The bottom line is you want to choose something as durable as possible but is also affordable and meets your local law requirements.

How to Paint a Parking Lot

Getting the right gear to paint a parking lot is easier once you are familiar with 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. So let’s go through a quick rundown 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).

Use white paint or yellow paint for painting parking zones. As mentioned, use blue paint to mark handicap spots. Use red traffic paint to mark fire zones.

You’ll also need to decide on whether you want to use water or oil-based parking lot paint. Be sure to check local regulations and laws, as there are places where solvent based paint is banned.

A Way To Apply The Paint

If you're new to line striping, then feel free to use a roller. But this can be tedious if you're painting a large parking lot.

Line stripers (also known as line striping machines) make the job far easier, and there’s the right size of equipment 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.


To paint parking lots, you definitely have to have stencils. 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.


If you’ve ever watched an auto race on a street circuit in the rain, you already know the painted lines are where the cars slip and lose grip.

Humans slip on painted parking spots and roads, too, so it is really important to use grit, especially in places like the diagonal lines of a pedestrian crosswalk.

For maximum adhesion it is recommended that you paint the surface then apply grit, and then paint again.

Hi-Visibility Glass Beads

Hi-visibility glass beads also need to be applied when the paint is still wet. These beads greatly increase the visibility of the painted parking spots 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 For Parking Lot Line Painting

I know it seems obvious, but, we often overlook the obvious! Here are some of the gear you need to block off the parking lot

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, especially because it reveals the state of our parking lots and pavement paint after snow removal. Now is the best time to spring into action, get out the parking lot paint, and take care of the ravages of winter.



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 everything.

Once the asphalt is clean and the painted parking spots are revealed, you’ll be able to see if the plows scraped off more than just snow!

Look for cracks that need crack filling, test if it needs a fresh coat of asphalt sealer, and check the pavement paint for clarity and brightness.

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


Check Your Parking Lot Painting Equipment And Supplies

If this is the first time you’re undertaking this job yourself, our free line striping course is an invaluable resource you can use.

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. Remember to 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° F.

Need a cheat sheet 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 and 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.


How to Maintain Painted Parking Spots

Proper maintenance is the key to prolonging the lifespan of parking lot paint. Here are some things you can do to ensure those lines and stenciled spots last longer.

Use the right kind of parking lot paint

In general, oil-based paints is more durable compared to water-based paints. But the downside is oil-based paints are more susceptible to cracking because they form a harder coat when they dry. This coat becomes harder and less flexible over time, resulting in brittle paint that easily cracks and chips.

But the good news is paint manufacturers have been improving the formula of water-based paints over the years so that their resistance to wear and tear is almost at par with oil-based paints.

Don't skimp on paint for parking lot lines

In many cases, the more expensive the material is, the better its quality. So don't waste your money on cheap paint that chips off easily. Instead, invest in the best traffic paint you can find and watch those lines and stenciled spots last for many years.

Don't skip the surface prep

Whether you're painting a parking lot or sealcoating asphalt, surface prep is a crucial part of any pavement maintenance task. Never skip surface prep before you start line striping because the last thing you want is for the paint to stick on dust, debris, and leaves instead of on the asphalt.

Apply crack filling and sealcoat

Fill cracks and apply sealcoat on asphalt before you start line striping so as not to waste precious paint.


Suggested Reading

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

Want to learn more about the right way to paint parking lot areas or what type of traffic paint you should use? Or maybe you're wondering whether it's time to invest in a new line striping equipment? Contact us today by calling 1-866-399-5562 or send a message to  sales@asphaltkingdom.com.


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