Striping Parking Lots

With some basic knowledge and the correct equipment, painting lines in parking lots can put some extra money in your pocket.

I am asked two questions quite often: “How do you stripe straight?” and “How do you stop and start exactly where you want?”

I’m answering both questions simultaneously, because the answers are connected; I can’t separate the two.

Keep your head still, take normal strides and glide.

That way, your eyes can focus and you are less likely to make an abrupt movement.

Lining Up Your Machine

Getting your machine where you want it involves two things: Getting the tip guard just to the side of your chalk line and getting the machine to travel straight.

For this, I focus on the chalk line while simultaneously focusing on the tip guard.

When the paint begins to flow, I want the side of my paint stripe to land exactly on that chalk line.

As a guide, I snap chalk lines to the side of where the stripe actually belongs, not down the middle.

To get lined up, you may have to perform a test shot on a piece of cardboard for practice.Image courtesy of American Striping Company

Next, push the machine forward, making sure you’re traveling parallel to the chalk line by staying focused on the line, as well as the tip guard.

If you’re traveling parallel, you’re ready to go.

Starting Out

You don’t need a running start.

If full speed for you is three miles per hour (MPH), fine.

You can put the gun directly over the starting point and just start walking.

Don’t try to drag race up to speed either; just start walking.

You’ll get up to your speed in a few normal strides.

Remember, the machine is already lined up, which means that, when the paint flows, the side of your painted stripe will land right on the chalk line you snapped.

  1. Roll the machine back to about six inches before your starting point
  2. Focus on the starting point while being mindful of the tip guard
  3. Start walking normally, and when you see the tip guard directly over the starting point, pull the trigger
  4. Get up to speed, which should take only a few normal strides.

The Paint Is Flowing

I only focus right where the paint hits the pavement.

That point of contact is where you’ll remain focused for the remaining length of the line.

If, for whatever reason, you missed the chalk line, don’t take corrective action; keep going straight.

Just stay one-quarter inch off the chalk line or over the chalk line, whichever the case may be.

The chalk line is only a guide.


Let’s say you’re coming to the end of a 36-foot line.

Do this: Remain focused on the paint hitting the chalk line.

Then, when the stopping point comes into your peripheral vision, slow down slightly and visualize it.Image courtesy of American Striping Company

Be mindful of these three points:

  • Don’t only focus on the paint hitting the chalk line or you’ll miss the stopping point
  • Don’t only focus on the stopping point or you’ll meander from the chalk line
  • Don’t focus exclusively between one or the other or the outcome will be less than ideal.

When you see the stopping point coming into your peripheral vision, think to yourself: “There you are; I see you.”

Remain focused on where the paint hits the chalk line and remember that you can slow down.

I don’t use a four-inch tip to spray a four-inch line; I use a six-inch tip to spray a four-inch line.

I just lower the gun to about six inches off the ground, which alleviates any wind problems and makes the focusing a bit easier.

Lastly, there are times — even now, after thousands of jobs — that I miss my target.

But, it’s always because I’m either hurrying or because I glance away at the wrong time.

The culprit is simply human error.

Be easy on yourself; you’ll get better and more profitable with practice.


Important Points For Painting LinesFreshly Painted Parking Lot Lines

  • Get your machine lined up by using the tip guard

  • Roll your machine back six inches before the starting point

  • Focus on the starting point and the tip guard simultaneously

  • Keep your head still and walk with normal strides

  • Squeeze the trigger when you’re directly over the starting point

  • Focus on where the paint hits the chalk line

  • Be mindful of your stopping point and slow down when you approach it

  • Let go of the trigger when you’re right at the stopping point.

Posted On April 14, 2011

Dan Zurcher

President of American Striping Company and the Author of How I Stripe a Parking Lot… 16 Years… by Myself

Dan Zurcher is the president of American Striping Company and the author of How I Stripe a Parking Lot… 16 Years… By Myself, a book now in its third edition. He has also produced numerous how-to videos and manufactures a line of parking lot stencils and striping-related products that are available through his company website. For more information, visit

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