Remember the days of putting down lines for games using a marker? We do, too. And to a certain extent, that isn’t a thing of the past – plenty of fields are still marked using a line marker and chalk powder, or even the odd can of spray paint found at the home improvement superstore. Weather, new grass growth and heavy use of fields generally result in those marks having to be reapplied on a regular basis, but for some fields, that’s just part of upkeep, right along with mowing, watering and so forth.

The advent of synthetic fields has brought permanent lines into the mix, meaning back-to-back games could be played on fields without fear of dismantling the marks. Of course, it also means that if fields are used for different sports in different seasons (or even in the same season), multiple game lines are going to be present.

Read more: Field Painting 101. 

Still, there are questions. Once synthetic fields are constructed and lined, can new lines be added in later, such as for a new sport? Are there rules that apply? Can it hurt the facility’s chances of hosting a sanctioned event? What are some of the better options for marking natural grass? How do you keep the field looking neat and professional – and not amateurish or sloppy?

As with everything else, give yourself time. It’s unwise to try to find the right product – or the right option or method – the night before a big game. Give yourself plenty of lead time to get the answers (and if necessary, the supplies) you need.

Here’s a quick primer:

Great options for natural fields

Yep, those chalk powder dispensers are still out there, but so are a number of other alternatives – and they may last longer and withstand the rain better. Field-specific paints are now on the market. You can buy them in bulk (usually in a 5-gallon bucket) or in spray cans for smaller or more concentrated areas. These products can be applied as-is or (if you’re using bulk supplies) thinned with water, depending on your needs. They can also be applied via battery-operated sprayers.

Here again, you’ll want to allow enough time prior to the game to apply the paint and make sure the paint is dry. Once that happens it’s formulated to stay on the grass and not on players’ or officials’ clothing.

If you’re marking yardage lines, such as with football, stencils are available to help provide a neat and professional job using a spray can of paint at close range, and again — we can’t say it enough — going slowly and carefully over the stencil and making sure paint doesn’t land outside of it. Governing bodies for sports at each level can provide information on field layouts, dimensions and markings.

Marking a field is neither simple nor quick, and it’s not a one-person task. (And if you disregard any of those guidelines, it’s going to show – badly – in the final result.) Measure out the dimensions you need the lines to be, and get tape measures in the lengths you need; for example, you’ll need several 300-foot-long tape measures in order to line a football field. Line the field with string and follow the string with your marking device. This is really the only way you’re going to stay on course; try it freehand and you’ll most likely wind up with a field of wavy lines. Have people with you to move strings as you work.

If you’re marking yardage lines, such as with football, stencils are available to help provide a neat and professional job using a spray can of paint at close range, and again – we can’t say it enough – going slowly and carefully over the stencil and making sure paint doesn’t land outside of it.

Governing bodies for sports at each level can provide information on field layouts, dimensions and markings. There are also internet tutorials for marking your field, so take advantage of all the information you can find. Make sure you’re working from the most current rule information.

With synthetic turf, get a second opinion

Maybe someone in your school would like to add some new lines to a synthetic field. And you agree – those lines are necessary. The products are available (thank you, internet) and they’re not too expensive. However, before using any product on a field, get recommendations from the company that installed the facility.

Synthetic turf surfaces can vary, and not all products are suitable for all surfaces. If using an approved removable paint on your field, use proper equipment for marking and removal. Many paint manufacturers recommend techniques and/or proprietary equipment for this purpose.

Again, your field contractor can provide guidance. And if you do choose to DIY, remember that unless the paint is washable, you’re going to be looking at the results for a very long time, so make sure you follow the recommendations for keeping lines straight and neat.

Looking at a logo?

Placement of logos in end zones and at mid-field is a long-standing tradition and a part of school pride. And it’s become something of a tradition to see logos for sponsors and more around various fields. We’ve even seen events like the Super Bowl use specific, one-time-only designs to customize fields.

In many cases, logos and team names can be a permanent part of the surface. It’s best to talk to a field contractor about the logo, its size, placement and color. Field builders, who are accustomed to putting down these images, can give the best advice on what will show up well against your surface.

Do not attempt it as a DIY project; the end result is often not worth the cost savings.

The lines have changed

Over time, turf infill can (and will) shift around because of constant foot traffic (particularly in areas like the crease in a lacrosse field), and that may result in playing lines taking on a slightly bent or wavy appearance.

Make a regular check of your turf by standing on the bleachers, or on a nearby hillside, to get a good vantage point. If something looks out of place, shoot a photo of it to your contractor and ask for advice. Your field is, after all, an investment, and you want to make the most of it.

Regular walk-throughs of your field are great, but don’t forget to re-evaluate the lines each season. Particularly after heavy play, constant freeze/thaw or anything else that might have resulted in a shift in the field, you’ll want to look for subtle changes – and then set about correcting them while they’re still subtle. This might be one of those cases where grass fields have an advantage over synthetic – in a natural facility, old lines are eventually mowed away.

All fields, natural or synthetic, require at least some level of maintenance. Nothing is carefree – though, certainly, everyone wishes it were. Your ability to stay on top of changing conditions will help the field look its best through each season and even each game.