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A Starter's Guide to Athletic Field Paint

Posted by TruMark / Friday, March 9, 2018 / Posted Under: Sports, Turf _Tips
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Which paint is the best field paint?

The answer to that question is not as simple as a brand or a type. Every program has different needs, different equipment, different users and different budgets. To help you identify what is correct for you and your organization we are putting together a multi-part blog series about paint. We will be writing about natural grass field paint and synthetic turf paint and how each works, dilution ratios, durability, brightness and price. To get started, and for future reference, we have created a chart that includes all of the bulk paints we offer with a check box style summary of each paint’s attributes. This is not all inclusive, there are numerous paints on the market and we are more than happy to talk to you about our paint offerings and compare to others on the market. We can help you with comparisons, dilution ratios, equipment and more.

(info@trumarkathletics.com / 1-800-553-6275)

Chart Key

  • Natural Turf: Intended for natural grass fields
  • Synthetic Turf: Formulated for synthetic turf fields
  • Pre-Diluted: Can be applied directly from the pail – no need to add water
  • Concentrate: Needs to be thinned with water before application
  • Suggested Dilution Ratio: Manufacturer recommendation for thinning with water. For example, 3:1 means 3 parts water to 1 part paint
  • Removable: This applies to synthetic turf paint, is it designed to be temporary and intentionally removed
  • Durability: A measure of adhesives used by adding (usually) latex. The more latex included usually results in a higher resistance to weather and foot traffic 
  • Eco-Friendly: Designed to be more grass and soil friendly with low VOCs
  • Colors: Available in colors in addition to white
  • Brightness: A comparison of brightness between paint grades within a particular brand.  Brightness is produced from titanium dioxide (TiO2).  The more TiO2 in the paint the brighter it appears.
  • Price:(very) General price comparison per pail within a specific brand. It is important to keep in mind that when comparing cost you need to do it by the “spray-able gallon” so that dilution ratios are accounted for.

Dilution Ratios

There are a few key components to consider when talking about dilution ratios regarding bulk paint designed for natural turf fields.  Important factors include but are not limited to:

  • Equipment available
  • Facilities and access to water
  • Quality of line desired
  • Price per pail vs price per spray-able gallon

What does diluting/dilution ratio mean? This is the act of thinning your paint with water. Thinning paint has multiple effects on the paint. It will decrease the quality of line (more on this in a minute) and it will stretch the amount of linear feet you will be able to achieve from each 5 gallon pail. (1:1 dilution will get you 10 sprayable gallons, or twice as much, 4:1 will give you 25 sprayable gallons or 5 times as much)

 *** Quick side note: a question we get a lot is how far, in feet, can a single pail of paint spray. There is never a good answer to this question because there are too many unknown variables. Any estimate you get will always be that - a guess. What machine you are using, type of grass and length, how fast the operator is walking and how much water you add are just a few of the considerations that make answering that question complicated.***

There are paints that are designed to be used directly from the pail. These are referred to as “Ready to Spray”, “Pre-diluted” “Ready to Apply” or a number of other things that means that there is no need to dilute the paint at all. Included in these paints are colors.  You never dilute a pail of colored paint because you will change the makeup of the paint and alter the color. Think about red, if you water down red it will become pink. Royal blue becomes sky blue. With white paint you get more options. When you water down white you get a lighter, less bright version of the same white. Many of the pre-diluted paints can be diluted 1:1 with water creating additional economy at the cost of quality. This can be a very useful thing.

For example: If you buy pails of pre-diluted paint to mark a game day football field and a practice field you can spray the paint undiluted on the game day field for maximum brightness and then thin the same paint for the practice field where quality is less important. If your game day field needed 6 pails, and the pails are $60, then the game day field would cost $360. You thin that same paint for the practice field and you would only need 3 pails, and would save $180.

Pre-Diluted paint is also a great fit for programs that do not have access to water at their facility. 

The majority of field paints on the market are “concentrates” meaning they are formulated with the intent of dilution. These paints are more economical than pre-diluted paint because what you are purchasing in the pail is more paint and less water. The chart below is provided to show you how the economics of dilution works: For the purposes of this chart we are using the cost per pail of $100 and $50, partially because that’s the cost of a low (pre-diluted) and high brightness (concentrated) pail of paint.

 

Paint

Cost

Dilution

Cost per Sprayable Gallon

Paint X – 5 gallon pail

$100

None

$20

Paint X – 5 gallon pail

$100

1:1

$10

Paint X – 5 gallon pail

$100

2:1

$6.66

Paint X – 5 gallon pail

$100

3:1

$5

Paint X – 5 gallon pail

$100

4:1

$4

Paint X – 5 gallon pail

$100

7:1

$2.50

 

 

 

 

Paint Y – 5 gallon pail

$50

None

$10

Paint Y – 5 gallon pail

$50

1:1

$4

Paint Y – 5 gallon pail

$50

2:1

$3.33

Paint Y – 5 gallon pail

$50

3:1

$2.50

Paint Y – 5 gallon pail

$50

4:1

$2

 

Here is what to take from this:

Depending on paint (and we can help you identify this) you can find the point that more expensive pails of paint become cheaper than the less costly pails because of their ability to achieve a bright line despite increased dilution. Some paints that are sold as “super” concentrates will achieve a brighter line at a 4:1 dilution ratio than the cheaper paints at a 1:1 (and many should not be diluted at all for game day fields) meaning that they are cheaper when you get down to the cost per sprayed gallon.

Adhesion / Durability / Brightening Components

Paint is made of the following ingredients:

  • Water
  • Pigment
  • Resin
  • Additives

In water based paints (the only paints that should be used on grass) the binding agent is latex. The latex in the paint formulation is what allows the paint to stick to the leaf of the grass. Typically, the reason that you need to reapply paint is that the grass grows, you mow it and as a result you mow off your paint. What makes paint white (pigment) is Titanium Dioxide (Ti02). The more Ti02 in the formula the more brilliant the white will be. It also allows the paint to be thinned further since there is more Ti02s per gallon even when the amount of water is increased. Ti02 and latex are what increases the price of the paint, which is why better paints are brighter, can be thinned further and are more expensive per pail. Additives are included in the formula to aid in preservation, drying and separation. All the items in the paint excluding water are the “solids”, the higher the level of solids, the higher the quality of paint. (typically). 

Best Practices when Painting

SportsField Management Magazine has a great article about the “Do’s and Dont’s” of field painting called Field Painting 101. Some items it covers in regards to paint:

  • Grass length
  • Paint Quality
  • Benefits of Aerosol and Bulk
  • Paint Mixing
  • Mowing Intervals
  • Rain and Irrigation schedules

This is a great quick hit article that covers a lot of the “practical” knowledge that is learned through hands-on experience, trial and error and mentorship. If you are new to painting, this article is where you should begin.

Additionally, we have done a Q & A with Griffin Brady from Eco Chemical. He has a wealth of knowledge around painting and best practices specifically regarding preparation for a game day field and a lot of what he discusses can be applicable to both synthetic and natural turf fields.

Conclusion

Here are some final points on paint in an easy list format to summarize everything that’s been covered earlier in the series.

  • Better paint generally costs more per pail but less per gallon sprayed.
  • Higher quality paint is better for your machines resulting in less clogs, less maintenance costs.
  • Diluting paint allows you to control quality.
  • Use different dilution ratios for your game day vs practice fields to stretch your dollars
  • How long your paint lasts on the field has more to do with grass growth than the actual paint.

Final thoughts – There are numerous paints on the market from many different brands. Each paint has a practical use, the key is finding the correct paint for your program. Deciding what quality of line is needed and what limitations your facility has (water access, equipment or budget) are the defining characteristic of what paint should be used. A strong dialogue between the organization and the men and women who actually apply the paint can help make sure everyone is on the same page. Reaching out to different companies, groundskeepers and other people with experience can help guide you. The end goal is always the same, to have the best looking field you can. We hope this helps and keep those lines straight!

Contact us via phone at 800-553-6275 or email if you have any questions or need help selecting the right field paint for your field!