Our home owners association's community parking lot lines are wearing off, about 5 lines, and I'm interested in respraying it instead of calling a professional.

I bought a Rust-Oleum Professional White Paint Spray, and I'm not sure how to avoid over spraying, all I can think of to get the job done is to use General Purpose Masking Tape (ones they use for painting) but that'd likely require at least 3 lines of tapes for each side of the parking line.

Update

Ended up going with the top solution here, and managed to create a stencil after buying grill (its box size was perfect), worked great, and it was a real fast job with this approach.

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    You can get a striping wand, which holds cans, as a much cheaper alternative to machines. – Matthew Gauthier May 16 at 14:09
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    @MatthewGauthier sounds like an answer. – bib May 16 at 14:36
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    The crux is the words "I bought". Do the buying after the planning and research is done. Manufacturers make a lot of what I would describe as "grab candy" products, designed to get you to toss it in the cart without thinking it through. Don't be bashful about taking that stuff back, the big box stores (which is where this happens) have extremely generous return policies. Probably keeps them out of a lot of lawsuits. – Harper May 16 at 14:36
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    why not just lay down a couple 2X4s and spray between them? – dandavis May 16 at 16:22
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    @dandavis although lumber should be straight, you'll want to be careful and select boards that actually are straight. obviously if they're curved sideways that'd be bad, but also even if they're bowed on the side laying against the ground, you'll get overspray under the parts that are lifted off the ground and the lines would look bad in those spots. – Doktor J May 16 at 21:13
up vote 35 down vote accepted

Make a stencil. That what road markers typically use for arrows, symbols, letters and numbers .

Easiest would be out of some cardboard boxes. Flatten the boxes, cut them and create a stencil with a gap shaped like the stripe. Place on the road, spray paint, then re-position for the next stripe.

Illustration from Asphalt Line Stripping:

Road stencil

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    Straight lines can also be put down using a stencil, it only needs to be a few feet long and move it as you go but don't let two much paint build up or it will drip over the edge and make blotches that will last as long as the stripes. + – Ed Beal May 16 at 12:27
  • Note the use of specialized application equipment, not a rattle can. – Harper May 16 at 14:26
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    Do you need to cut a stencil? If the edges of the boxes are straight, couldn't you just measure and lay them on the pavement at the right width from one another (presumably weighting or taping them so they don't shift)? – 1006a May 16 at 14:32
  • To paint a line using a stencil, make sure the sides are parallel to each other and the line to be sprayed through, put a length of wood so that the stencil keeps in contact at one side at least, move stencil along wood. – Tim May 18 at 10:41

Besides the line-spray machine mentioned in the comments, perhaps you might try using a narrow roller instead of spray. For the purposes of parking-lot lines, that should give a sharp-enough boundary. I'd recommend putting down a snap-line or equivalent in any case, and following that carefully.
I know you can buy rollers down to 4 inches; of course it's easy to cut down a standard roller to whatever width you like.

  • The standard roller sizes are 3, 4, 7 and 9 inches. I cut down rollers all the time because I paint in 2-part paints that melt standard rollers. – Harper May 16 at 14:19
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    The advantage of this over a stencil is a stencil will either need to be huge or sprayed one small section at a time and then moved. When moving it, you may smear the fresh paint and then the paint on the underside of the stencil is a huge frustration. Also, the stencils will not line up perfectly and their slight crookedness will be more obvious because of the contrast between perfectly straight and distinct angle. – Zach Mierzejewski May 16 at 14:54
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    We restriped a parking lot with 3-inch rollers, and I have to saw it works very well. Put down an 8ft Furring Strip (2"x1" wood strip) and run the roller next to it to make a straight line. – Moshe Katz May 16 at 17:26

It sounds like you need a Line Striping Machine. If you search your favorite search engine, you can find one of these fairly easily. While there are higher end models with special paint reservoirs and compressors and all that jazz, there are also simpler ones that simply mount a can of spray paint like you have and hold it a constant distance from the asphalt as you roll it in a (presumably) straight line -- these seem to run as low as $75, possibly even less with a little more internet legwork.

Here's an example of a lower-end line striper, available via your typical big box home improvement stores (though often by special order, see their sites for details). This particular image is from Home Depot:

Low end line striper

There are even single-wheeled "striping wands" that are cheaper yet (ranging from about $20-50), but one of the four-wheeled stripers will make straight lines easier without having to set up any sort of guides; just measure where you want the lines to start, plunk the machine down pointed in the right direction, pull the trigger and walk. A striping wand looks like this one (image also from Home Depot, though be aware it got poor reviews regarding build quality and paint can compatibility):

Single-wheeled striping wand

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    Striping paint is permanent and is sprayed from a fan-shaped nozzle. Marking paint is temporary and is sprayed from a cone-shaped nozzle. The 1-wheeled wand is for marking, which favors dexterity over straightness. – Spencer Joplin May 17 at 16:24
  • @SpencerJoplin the wand I show in the second image is actually a striping wand by Rust-Oleum, and is meant to be used with their striping paint, which in turn is advertised as "Use on outdoor surfaces like concrete, gravel, soil and more", and "Designed to resist weather and surface abrasions". While there are marking wands/paint for temporary markings, there are also striping wands for more permanent applications. – Doktor J May 17 at 18:46
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    @Iancovici - make sure you don't walk on the just-painted stripe. Don't ask me how I know... :-} – Bob Jarvis May 17 at 21:07

When we re-striped my in-laws' parking lot, we used a combination of two things. We used a striping wand (example) to hold the spray can at a consistent position and angle while moving. To keep the lines straight, we used some scrap lumber to built a guide shaped like a capital letter 'T' (IIRC, we used an old wall stud). Place the flat part of the 'T' against the curb, then roll the wand down the length of the guide while keeping the wheel pressed against the side of the guide. Having a helper keep a foot on the guide to keep it in place can be useful.

We found that method to give us the best results. Masking with tape was precise but required lots of tape and was time-consuming. Stencils were hard to keep aligned, so we ended up with jagged lines that were made of straight segments. The guide gave us a single, full-length straight edge to work with. The T-shape kept the lines perpendicular to the curb and parallel with each other. We cut two more pieces of wood to the width of the parking space and used those to quickly re-position the guide for the next line. All in all, that guide gave us much more professional-looking results in about 20% of the time of our old methods, and required less than $50 worth of materials (all of which can be reused next time).

You mentioned you only had about 5 lines to paint. You could probably get by with a simpler guide that was just a single long board. It would take more work to keep everything parallel, but that's not that bad for only 5 lines. You wouldn't want to do 50 lines that way, though.

  • +1 for the T shape to keep them perpendicular and parallel. Totally forgot that lines didn't just have to be straight. – Anthony May 17 at 21:35
  • +1 It seems like this method could also be used with a paint roller of the proper width (as mentioned in another answer), rather than a striping wand, for a potentially even lower cost. – 1006a May 18 at 16:36
  • @1006a- A roller would work as well. We found the spray cans to be considerably faster, though. Plus fewer problems with drips/spills, and significantly less bending and stooping (which is critical when you're striping more than a handful of spaces). – bta May 18 at 23:56

Rattle cans are not really the right way to do that job. I am appalled that the things big-box stores will sell you with a straight face, they stock many things that are wrong, require specialty skills or are downright illegal, and all the burden on you is to know the craft and know what to buy, and then their $8/hour clerks advise you wrong (because they don't know)! I prefer to deal with specialty suppliers. It doesn't take a half hour to visit their shop, and their prices are often better too. My locksmith warned me 3 times that Code requires lever handles in commercial spaces, not door knobs. Bless him!

OK so you're committed.

For a mask? I would use a couple of manila folders. Readily available, cheap, and abundant since many people are switching to hanging folders. However expect to waste 70% of your paint and it'll look amateurish. It will also be impractical to paint in any wind.

They also make apparatus specifically to spray pavement lines, but that will require rattle-cans which are compatible with it.

I would also consider a roller and canned paint. It's far cheaper, and you'll waste less than 10% of the paint. Rollers proper come in 3" and 4" stock widths. Some rollers let you "hang a little off the end". Roller covers (the part that absorbs the paint) can be cut down to any needed width, bonus points if you work it so the leftovers are useful. This too runs the risk of looking amateurish unless you have a steady hand. Consider "snapping a line" with a chalk line.

  • I've never really used rollers till recently, and GOSH does it make a difference! Totally support the roller/paint tray and canned paint suggestion. – Criggie May 19 at 0:16

How about a couple lengths of decently thick cloth? You might need an assistant or a heavy weight at each end to anchor the cloth, then tension it.

The cloth should be heavy enough to hold the overspray without soaking thorough, so dropcloth or canvas might work well. Denim would be fine too.

Once the edge of the fabric gets clogged up, you could fold it in and staple it, or cut the edge off.

Wind would screw up everything - only do this on a still day, with no dampness on the ground at all. You'll also want to sweep the surface clean first, and use a chalk line for straightness.

Another workable choice is two stout corrugated cardboard boxes unfolded.

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