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Different types of line marking paints and their advantages

Wondering which line marking paint is best to use for your project? It's important to understand the different types of line marking paint to ensure you pick a product that's suitable for each surface type.

There are six main types of road or line marking paints and products;

  1. Hot Thermoplastic

  2. MMA

  3. Solvent-Based Acrylic

  4. Water-Based

  5. Epoxy

  6. Pre-formed Thermoplastic Tape and Marking

  7. Others

Hot Thermoplastic

Thermoplastic line marking paint is the most common type of paint in the road marking industry.

Hot thermoplastic is a combination of synthetic resin, pigments and glass beads (pigments give colours and glass beads add reflectivity). It comes in powder form which is heated in a tank and is then applied by a special line marking/striper machine or the screed version can be applied with a hand mould. Applied correctly and at the right temperature, the paint melts on the surface and forms a strong and durable bond.

Depending on traffic conditions the paint can last for 7-10 years.

Advantages – Cheap. Cures in minutes, very fast drying. Excellent durability. Low maintenance.

Disadvantages – As it is hot-applied, extra care needs to be given to PPE and application. Needs special installation equipment (increases capital expenditure). Not advisable for application on concrete.


Methyl-Methacrylate (MMA) is also known as Cold Plastic. It is the most durable and also the most expensive paint available. It is similar to thermoplastic paint but applied cold and exceeds hot thermoplastic performance.

MMA line marking paint is a two-component paint - the paint component and the catalyst. The catalyst is added to the paint and mixed in well, it is then applied via hand (brush, roller or hand mould). The working life (pot life) when mixed is about 10-15 mins, so the application is needs to be done fairly immediately, all surface preparation is done before mixing in the catalyst.

MMA comes in a sprayable version as well. There are options of two catalysts that can be used a liquid peroxide or drop on coated beads. The sprayable MMA is ideal for bigger jobs.

Depending on traffic conditions the paint can last for 8- 10 years.

Advantages – Extremely long lasting. Dries quickly. Can be used in very low temperatures. Can be used on varied surfaces. Cost-effective in the long run.

Disadvantages - Expensive. Smells of ammonia.

Solvent-Based Acrylic

Solvent based acrylic line marking paint comes in a single pack. They are cold applied and can be applied with a machine (spray) or hand (brush, roller or hand mould). It is relatively straightforward to use, - open the tub, mix the paint and apply.

Solvent-based paints come in a low VOC option which is much safer for the environment and the installer. This paint is favoured more in countries where the weather is wet and humid.

Depending on traffic conditions the paint can last for 3-5 years.

Advantages – Easy to use. Hard wearing. Low VOCs. Does not freeze like water-based paints. Can be applied in humid weather. Can be used on varied surfaces.

Disadvantages – Not as durable as thermoplastic and MMA and takes longer to dry. Risk of hazard greater than water-based paints.

Water-Based Line Marking Paint

As the name suggests it is water-based and is better for the environment. It is cold applied and is as straightforward as single pack solvent-based paints - open the tub, mix the paint and apply. Again, it can be applied via machine or hand like the solvent-based paints.

It is less damaging to the environment and has low fume levels, however, it is not advisable to use it when humidity is high particularly in the winter months. This paint is favoured more in countries where the weather is hot and dry.

Depending on traffic conditions the paint can last for 3-5 years.

Advantages – Easy to use. Hard wearing. Environmentally friendlier compared with other paints. Quick-dry in a warm climate. Can be used on varied surfaces. Less hazardous than others.

Disadvantages – Not as durable as other paints. Takes much longer to dry to humid conditions.


Epoxy paints are extremely hard-wearing and resistant to chemicals. It is used more indoors in places like garages, workshops, warehouses and other industrial floors.

Epoxy paint comes in a single pack or a two pack. Single pack epoxy is not as hard-wearing as the two-pack.

The two-pack epoxy has a resin and a hardener that are mixed together before application. Once applied it forms a mirror-like film that is resistant to abrasion, fuel and chemicals. The paint can be applied with a spray, brush or a roller.

Advantages – Hard-wearing and long-lasting. Abrasion, chemical and fuel resistance film. Can be used on varied surfaces.

Disadvantages – More expensive than other paints. Takes longer to dry. Overtime can become chalky.

Pre-formed Thermoplastic Tape and Markings

Preformed thermoplastic is thermoplastic that has been bonded/preformed into rolls or sheets for ease of use. For the tape - simply cut the required length and heat it with a gas torch, that’s how easy it is to use. For the preformed and pre-cut markings, lay them as needed and heat it with a gas torch. The surface preparation is required as is with any paint. There is much less fuss and hassle with the preformed thermoplastics.

It is used for small projects and quick jobs. Depending on traffic conditions it can last for 2-5 years.

Advantages – Easy to sue. Cures in minutes, very fast drying. Good durability. No hassle. No wastage.

Disadvantages – Is not feasible for bigger jobs, it becomes expensive and time consuming compared to other paints.

Other types of line marking paint

There are other line marking paints such as Chlorinated Rubber and Polyurethane but their usage is slowly diminishing due to the harsh chemicals in the products, which is very harmful to the user and the environment. Some countries have completely banned the usage of these due to health and safety reasons and availability of better products.

These paints are used in the UK, albeit not very popular for line marking. They are both heavy-duty paints and can be applied in a similar fashion to the other paints discussed above.

Advantages – High durability. Inexpensive.

Disadvantages – Harsh chemicals and smell.

If you would like to give suggestions or add some more information to this article, please email us as at

Whether you need to repaint your parking lot or determine what type of pavement marking paint or material is best suited for your specific use, we can help. This guide to the most appropriate pavement marking material along with the information about the various projects will help you move forward with your next project and make informed decisions for the best results.

How to Choose the Right Types of Pavement Marking Material

What project is on your calendar? A number of variables involved in the job will determine which type of pavement marking material you should choose. Advanced technologies have made many great options available, from parking lot and highway line paints to thermoplastic pavement markings. Depending on the conditions of your project and the desired outcome, you have a number of solid options.

How do you know which is the best choice? Start by reviewing the various types of pavement marking materials to become familiar with your options.

Learn More About D.E. Gemmill’s Pavement Marking Services

Common Types of Pavement Marking Material

Each type of marking material offers different durability levels and unique advantages for specific settings. Consider the following types of pavement marking materials to determine which might work best for your project:

1. Solvent-Based Paints

Many solvent-based paints are banned because of environmental concerns. Some compliant solvent-based paints can be used in various areas of the United States, but it is best to check with a knowledgeable pavement marking contractor or manufacturer before specifically choosing a solvent-based product for your specific project.

The main advantage of this type of paint is that it won’t freeze. It can be used in colder weather without issue, unlike water-based paints, which break down in colder temperatures. Oil-based paints are widely used due to their versatility and low cost. However, due to environmental concerns, many people are choosing water-based paints, which offer a greener option with easier clean-up and disposal.

Solvent-based paints are available in a couple different varieties:

Acetone-Based Paint

This type of traffic paint is acceptable for use in certain areas of the mid-Atlantic region. Acetone paint is a good product for parking lots and parking garages, as long as it is accepted by the customer and can be used within the jurisdiction where the work is being done. Acetone paint also allows painting to be performed at lower temperatures than water-based traffic paints.

This is an ideal product for striping in the early spring and late fall, as well as temporary striping during winter months. Though it does have temperature limitations, it is much more user-friendly in cold weather. A drawback of this paint is that it can only be cleaned up with acetone solvent, which is a hazardous waste. It must be disposed of properly.

Epoxy Paints

This product was first introduced in the 1970s. Epoxy paints are two-part component paints used to create a superior product compared to traditional paint, and they work well in high-traffic areas due to their durability. Epoxy paint is longer-lasting than standard traffic marking paint. It offers impact and abrasion resistance. This makes it ideal to use on concrete, although concrete surfaces must be prepped prior to applying epoxy. The epoxy bonds tightly to these surfaces due to a chemical reaction that occurs when the two components are mixed.

There are multiple epoxy products. Highway epoxy paints require specific and specialized equipment for application. This is due to the way that the catalyst and the resin are combined at specific ratios to form the final epoxy coating. Highway epoxies are limited to use on highways, some parking lots and possibly some parking garages, depending on the ability to access the area with the necessary equipment, which can be quite large.

Interior epoxy paints can be utilized for warehouses, industrial and commercial buildings. These products are also two-component products, which can be mixed in pails and applied with walk-behind painting equipment — though the equipment must be large enough to pump the heavy material. Many of these products are only for interior use. The interior products also require an extended cure time of 24 to 72 hours or more.

Because of their effectiveness, epoxy paints are more expensive than traditional paints. Epoxy is typically less sensitive to application factors than thermoplastic options. It also offers the highest level of wet night reflectivity. Epoxy is highly durable and can eliminate the need to restripe roadways on a yearly basis. On low-to-mid volume roadways, epoxy paints can have a service life of more than four years, and they can be applied at temperatures as low as 35°F.

2. Water-Based Paint

Because of their water base, these paints are less damaging to the ecosystem than solvent-based paints. They are the most affordable type of paint on the market and are also the greenest option. They dry quickly in warm weather conditions, but dry times can be affected by humidity. They also offer easy clean-up, too.

These are typically the most commonly used paints for line stripers. Water-based paints are also used for painting highways, parking lots and parking garages, as well as parking lots that have been sealed with a coal tar product.

While the advantages include easy use, easy clean-up and few fumes, the main disadvantage of water-based paints is that they tend to not perform well in cooler temperatures. Water-based traffic paint also is one of the least durable pavement marking products. In weather conditions 50°F and below, this type of traffic paint shouldn’t be used, which shortens the water-based painting seasons for northern areas. Highway water-based traffic paints typically have ammonia added to assist with drying, but humidity and temperatures also will affect drying of this paint.

3. Pavement Marking Tapes

Pavement marking tapes are used for temporary and permanent pavement markings. On certain roadways, temporary striping is performed using removable tapes. These temporary tapes can be applied for construction projects and then removed when the project is completed. There are also temporary cover-up tapes, that can be used to cover existing lines during construction.

Permanent tapes are also used on roadways and intersections. In cold weather climates, pavement marking tapes can be inlaid into asphalt during paving to reduce wear, or they can be grooved into paving to help reduce damage from snowplowing operations.

4. Thermoplastic Paint

As the name implies, this substance contains plastic, and it is another type of pavement marking material normally found on highways. Thermoplastic pavement markings can be applied in various ways, such as preformed, extruded, ribbon and spray. Some states require a specific type of application and may not permit certain others.

Extruded, ribbon and preformed materials are typically applied at 90 mils or more in thickness, and they sit on the road surface about 1/8 of an inch or slightly higher. Spray thermoplastic is typically done at 60 mils or less, and it creates a lower profile more comparable to paint. Preformed thermoplastic, as its name indicates, is already formed in a specific shape or line width.

All thermoplastics are applied utilizing heat. They are applied using a specialized torch that heats both the thermoplastic and the asphalt and causes the thermoplastic material to bond with the asphalt. Extruded, ribbon and spray thermoplastic are applied with specialized trucks or equipment. This equipment melts the thermoplastic to approximately 400 degrees, and the material is applied in a liquid form. As the material cools, it maintains its shape or line size. Glass beads are added for reflectivity.

Once dry, it’s more durable than many other types of pavement markings and can withstand much more abuse and abrasion than other types of striping. This means it lasts longer than other products — however, it also means it’s more expensive than paint.

A Note About Reflective Paint Markings

All pavement markings can be reflective. There are various types of glass beads, with each type manufactured or cut differently for a specific reflective use. Glass beads have to be applied at specific rates and embedded properly in the pavement marking material to achieve a reflective marking.

Reflective pavement markings containing glass beads are applied with a hand-held bead dispenser, a line striper that spreads beads or by hand. The beads give the paint its reflective property at night.

Learn More About D.E. Gemmill’s Pavement Marking Services

Factors Determining Which Pavement Paint You Should Use

As you review your options for pavement marking material, you must consider several factors. Ask yourself the following questions to determine which selection is the best pavement marking for your project:

  • What is the durability of the road-marking material? Consider the location where you will be applying the pavement markings. Does the pavement marking need to be extremely durable? Is it a highly traveled road, a heavily-used parking lot or a back road? Lightly traveled areas logically require less durable markings. For heavy traffic, it’s worth spending a little more to apply a durable product that won’t require frequent re-application.
  • What are the weather conditions in your area? Do you experience a lot of rain? What are the typical conditions during the winter? Will the roads be covered in snow or ice? Areas with mild climates and little precipitation require less durable types of pavement markings. You may be able to use traditional paint, even in highly-traveled areas. If you know the surface will suffer under severe weather conditions, however, it will be necessary to upgrade to a more durable material.
  • Is reflectivity a concern? In low-light or adverse weather conditions, reflectivity is essential for road markings that affect safety. Reflective pavement markings reflect the light from car headlights to alert drivers and make the pavement markings visible for drivers. Traffic paint and signage must also adhere to legal standards for reflectivity. Municipalities and state agencies are required to develop and implement a management and assessment program that maintains reflectivity at or above the established minimum levels. It’s essential to remain informed of any reflectivity requirements for your type of project and choose the appropriate marking to meet those standards.
  • What is your budget for pavement markings? As with any product, pricing varies greatly among types of pavement markings. The materials and application method used affect the overall cost. Consider your project budget as you select pavement markings to use. Keep in mind, you must create a realistic budget based on your project needs. Answering these questions can help you determine how much you’ll need to spend to complete the project appropriately.

Best Pavement Marking Material for Parking Lots, Highways and More

Based on the factors previously discussed, certain pavement markings are best for specific projects. Some types are more commonly used than others.

Here are the most highly recommended solutions for four common traffic paint projects:

1. Paint for Parking Lots

As you consider options for your parking lot project, you want to choose a long-lasting parking lot line paint. Water-based paints offer several advantages that have made them the top choice for parking lot paint. They offer a low-cost, fast-drying and environmentally-friendly option. Since most parking lots don’t experience the abrasive use of highways or raceways, this simple option is often the go-to product for parking lot painting.

It’s important to note that harsh climates could be the exception to this rule — for instance, colder areas that experience low winter temperatures.

2. Best Highway Paint

For highways, you need a durable paint that will withstand high speeds and harsh use. Thermoplastic and epoxy are the best options, as they offer a reliable, durable result that will last longer than other solutions.

3. Pavement Paint for Backroads

While some may argue backroads don’t need paint at all, these roadways must still adhere to traffic laws. Since they’re less traveled, backroads don’t need pavement marking to be as durable. Traditional water-based paint is typically sufficient — however, keep reflectivity issues in mind. Backroads are often poorly lit compared to main roads, and reflectivity is a key safety component. Make sure your contractor is testing reflectivity and applying the appropriate glass beads and at the correct specification application rates for optimum reflectivity. Again, check your local regulations for these guidelines.

D.E. Gemmill Is Your Trusted Pavement Marking Contractor

When you need pavement marking services, D.E. Gemmill is your go-to source. When you choose us, you get:

  • Certification and Experience: We are certified to serve in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia in pavement highway markings, and we offer more than 30 years of experience in the industry. Since 1986, we have strived to provide the most advanced products and services throughout the Pavement Maintenance Industry. We have established ourselves as a quality, efficient, professional yet competitive company, and we continue to build our solid reputation in the industry today.
  • Excellence in Service: D.E. Gemmill’s in-depth knowledge of a complete line of pavement marking paints allows us to provide you with unparalleled service. Our many years of service to our assorted markets give us a unique capability to offer our customers an exceptional experience. We pride ourselves in satisfying our customers’ needs with an appreciation of urgency, delivering high-quality products and solutions.
  • Reflectivity Adherence: If your roadways need to be updated, our experts can assist you in creating a reflectivity adherence plan to ensure your roadways meet current requirements.
  • A Full-Service Provider:E. Gemmill’s complete line of pavement marking services includes pavement maintenance, parking lot painting, highway and road line painting, thermoplastic, sealcoating and crack sealing, retroreflectivity and traffic sign manufacturing and installation.

Call or contact us online for a free custom quote, or to obtain more information about the best pavement marking paint for your next project. We look forward to helping you!

Learn More About D.E. Gemmill’s Pavement Marking Services

Different types of line marking paints and their advantages

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