Field painting with athletic fields marking paint is part of the art and science of sports field management. It’s a time-consuming task, but an important one. Painting creates the functional field markings that are essential to the play of the game, and accuracy provides the basis for those close calls that decide the outcome of the action on the field.Do’s and don’ts to improve your field painting technique.

The Do’s

Paint healthy grass. No matter how skilled you are at field painting, you’ll get poor results if you paint on poor grass. You want a good, tight, thick, short turf to serve as the canopy for your painting. The shorter the grass, the greater the detail you can put in. Warm-season bermudagrass, mowed at the height of 3/8 to .5 inch, works well for complex logos. Any height above 2 inches is pushing the window to get good results.

Be accurate. Functional markings are essential to the game. Use the official field layout specifications as provided by the correct governing body for the sport at the level of play of those who will be playing the game.

Mow right before you paint. Freshly mowed grass is shorter, giving you a better surface for painting, and it gives you the longest possible interval before you mow again.

Use a stencil. The stencil gives a more precise finished product with no overspray on the grass. You don’t have to hold the nozzle as close to the grass surface, so you can frost the blades rather than coating them heavily, and you’re not blasting the outer edges of the marking.

Paint as close to the game or event as you can for maximum brightness, but allow enough time for the paint to dry. Different paints have different drying times. Some dry in a couple hours, others take days. Experiment so you know what to expect from your paint and how it will perform under differing seasonal conditions.

The Don’ts

Don’t get sloppy with your strings. Take the time to double-check the accuracy of the placement and pull the strings taut before you start to paint.

Don’t paint if it’s windy. Wind makes it much harder to pull the strings straight and blows your paint. You’ll be able to determine how much drift you are getting by the amount of spray particles suspended in the air as you look from the point of application toward the sun. If there’s no way to avoid painting in the wind, have crew members hold plywood or Masonite boards along both sides of the section you’re painting to block the drift.

Don’t paint if rain is anticipated or if you’ll need to irrigate before the paint dries. Use a combination of resources to track weather patterns. Use a computer-based weather service if you can, and tap into the local and regional weather reports. Paint on a non-irrigation day or irrigate first, allow the grass to dry, and then paint.

Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Start from the top and work down, or from the center and work out, especially when painting a large logo. If you don’t plan ahead, someone will have to hold up the hose for you so it doesn’t drag across the wet paint and smear.

Don’t wear clothes that you don’t want to ruin. Keep a set of paint clothes and a pair of paint shoes in your maintenance building or stashed in your car or truck so they’re handy when you need them.