When stenciled correctly, painted concrete floors can convey directions, safety notices, and organizational cues to help a facility run smoothly and safely. While you might be familiar with the basics of how to paint concrete floors, using stencil templates to create recognizable traffic control signs, safety symbols, and hazard warnings may require extra preparation for clear, professional-looking visuals. Read on to learn how to begin a stencil-and-paint project, what supplies you’ll need on hand, and tips for using stencils.

How Do You Prepare a Warehouse Floor for Painting?

You should only paint on warehouse floors that have been properly prepared. To prepare a warehouse floor for painting, first consider the condition of the warehouse floors or pavement, and follow these guidelines:

  • A polished concrete floor needs to be roughed to help the paint adhere. 
  • A coated or sealed slab needs to be stripped of these top layers before paint may be applied.
  • A moisture-prone concrete floor needs to be sealed or have professional remediation before it may be painted.
  • Newly poured concrete should be fully cured before painting.
  • All concrete floors must be cleaned and primed before applying paint: Cleaning should remove any existing paint from the concrete, plus eliminate grease, oils, or other surface coatings.
  • Primer is necessary when painting concrete floors: It helps even out the surface for smooth and uniform stenciled markings, and it gives the paint a better surface to bond with.

What Paint Do You Use on Concrete Floors?

A durable paint designed for application on concrete or cement floors is essential to extend longevity and reduce damage from dragged pallets, pedestrians, and forklift traffic. A large project may even require multiple types of paint. Consider these paint types for concrete floors to help your visual cues last:

  • Epoxy is a durable, plastic-like paint that is often cheaper than polyurethane and it is tolerant to moisture and humidity.
  • Polyurethane paint has a longer lifespan than epoxy due to its impact resistance and flexibility and is ideal in hot and cold environments—but is an expensive choice.
  • Acrylic spray paint is easy to apply and relatively cheap to purchase, but won’t last long in heavily trafficked areas.
  • Non-slip paint works much like anti-slip tape and can provide extra traction on loading ramps, walkways, and slippery environments, but this specialty paint should be used only where necessary for cost savings.

How to Select Pavement Stencils

Choosing cheap cardboard stencils may contribute to application issues that outweigh any cost savings. These forms are prone to damage and do not lay as flat as heavier templates. When selecting warehouse visual cues and pavement markings for safety, clear, legible lines and warnings keep employees and visitors safe. Because paint removal from concrete is a difficult process, it is best to use warehouse safety stencils only for permanent messages—temporary floor signs may be a better choice for short-term or adjustable messaging. Reusable letter and number stencils and stencil kits offer flexibility for creating messages, while directional arrows and universal symbols help create messaging that is easily understood, without the tedious application process of characters and words.

What Is the Best Stencil Material for Concrete?

The best parking lot and pavement stencils are 1/8-inch or 1/16-inch low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic: These lay flat enough to produce crisp, clear messages, and are reusable, easy to clean, and easy to store. Thicker stencils are better suited for spray application versus a roller.

In addition to stencil material, consider the accessories you’ll need for painting. Having the right tools for the job can help speed up the process without sacrificing results. These common tools and accessories for painting concrete make the process easier:

  • Stencil lock: Easily hold character stencils in place so the numbers or letters are evenly spaced and professional-looking.
  • Chalk lines: Outline an exact grid for striping projects or create a guide for stenciling forklift parking spots, dock doors, work cells, or text lines.
  • Adhesive spray or vinyl tape: Use adhesive spray or pressure-sensitive tape to hold a form in place while painting symbols, especially in areas subject to wind.
  • Marking gun: To apply an even, consistent coat of paint with less waste, use a marking gun—ideal for use with heavy-duty stencils.

Using Stencils for Painting Concrete Floors

While selecting high-quality stencils and paint provides better results, following best practices for stenciling techniques can ensure your symbols and lines turn out crisp and clear the first time. These tips can help your stenciling project go smoothly:

  • Before painting, measure and apply chalk lines for even and professional lines and floor markings.
  • Remove the stencil immediately to ensure the form does not dry on or stick to the surface.
  • After applying the paint, lift directly up on the stencil to pull the form off the painted surface without smudging the design.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing time to prior to opening the painted concrete floor to traffic.

How Do You Keep Paint From Bleeding When Stenciling a Floor?

To prevent paint from bleeding, first ensure you’re using flat stencils that lay snugly on the surface to ensure lines appear crisp, rather than fuzzy. Then, choose an appropriately sized spray nozzle that will limit overspray and wasted paint. A spray box allows you to aim the nozzle through and can help catch any overspray that may mark areas outside of the stencil—you can make one from a corrugated box that is open on two ends. Move the box around the design as you paint until the entire form is covered.

How Do You Make a Stencil Lay Flat?

If your stencil was rolled for storage, unroll it before the project and allow it to decompress ahead of time. Choosing a heavy-duty stencil helps the form lay flatter than a flimsy, lightweight one—and storing your stencils flat can prevent curled edges, as well. If the stencil is still bowed even after flattening it, use an inexpensive, removable vinyl tape to secure the form to the surface while you paint.

How Do You Hold Stencils in Place?

For painting a single form on floors or ramps where a stencil may shift, use vinyl tape or a repositionable spray adhesive to secure the template during application. Both adjust easily, allowing you to reposition the template in a variety of locations. For painting a variety of characters, such as labeling or numbering warehouse aisles, use a stencil lock to hold the forms together before placing them on the concrete surface.

Alternatives to Paint and Stencil Floor Markings

To avoid time-consuming paint applications and complicated removals, consider using self-adhesive floor signs, tape, and pavement markings. Peel-and-stick pavement marking tapes and parking lot signs create clear navigational aids and lines for motorists and these visuals install easily and don’t require extended curing times. Our safety floor signs and tape for indoor applications are available in permanent inlaid mesh and removable vinyl materials. Custom-printed signs and floor tape are ideal for conveying any message in industrial environments—and present clearer text and images than painting allows.

Visual communication can improve safety in industrial facilities, and our floor tape, signs, and stencils are ideal tools for marking safety cues and messages. When you’re ready to update or add visual cues, visit our Resource Center for more safety and organizational tips.