What is the Paint in Basketball? Main Points in The Paint

Have you ever heard a basketball analyst using the word “points in the paint” while stating the statistics? If you are a basketball enthusiast who plays or watches the game long enough, you will be aware of “Paint” in basketball. Still, many people like me who care about the match occasionally aren’t familiar with terms like these. So I was getting emails that what is the paint in basketball?

The players play in the center step on the Paint to defend the rim as it is the hardest to defend and easiest to score.

For more information and to better understand the game and the terms used by the commentators while a player scores, I suggest you continue reading. All the little tiny details regarding the match are jotted down below. I promise you will have all the dimensions, rules, and strategies by reaching the end. So let’s dig in so you do not miss any moment while watching the next game.

What Is The Paint In Basketball?

Paint is the rectangular area that extends from baseline to the free-throw line and is situated under the basket rim. It has hash marks that help the players to set their positions while hitting a free throw. As by the name, the Paint is colored differently than the rest of the basketball court to grab some attention from both the players and the audience.

The crucial part of the court is controlled by the dominating team and has greater chances to win. The Paint has many defenses and offenses designed within its territory as it affects most parts of the game and helps the players post up.

Dimensions of the Paint

The rectangular area of the Paint extends from the baseline to the free-throw line from underneath the basket. According to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA, the standard size for the Paint is 16′ in width. The restricted zone under the basket is 4′ in diameter, while the free throw circle is 12′ in diameter. The area of the Paint was small in the 20th century to avoid the three-second violations.

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Parts of the Paint

The Paint, also called “The Key,” is an important area on the basketball court and has a different color than the rest. The player shall stand out of the Paint while hitting the free-shots from the baseline to the free-throw line. The reason for Paint being called a key is that it has a shape of a keyhole. This has some specific locations that the players and the coaches use during the game.


Block-shaped marks, as by the name, can be witnessed in the court on the free-throw lane. These blocks mark the distance for the players. They help the players to maintain their distance from the basket rim. This position can also be the starting point for the basketball player as it comes in the low post area.

Low Post

The low post is the second part of the Paint and is present on the lane lines near the basketball rim. The big players can use this position for initiating a post-up to receive or make an outside pass on the three lines. It gives an advantage to the player for a close-range score and put-backs even if he misses a chance. The low post also makes it easier to observe the teammates while free shooting when you stand inside the low post.
High Post

As the name indicates, a high post is high on the keyhole area and surrounds both sides of the paint zone with an imaginary semicircle. It is towards the free-throw line and makes an arc with half-court. The players can easily maneuver in the perimeters as the high post area has a wide range. It gives relief to the player as there are very few chances to be whistled at.

Top of the Key

The top of the key is the fourth part of the Paint in the basketball and is located above the jump ball circle. It is the area where the point guard does some offensive plays. The size of the key has no specific standard, and it changes according to the circle.

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Importance of the Paint

Many offensive strategies take place in the Paint, and this is why it is essential in basketball. The players can get easy buckets in this rectangular area on the court as the percentage for field goals is high. If the players want to score, it is the easiest for them but extremely difficult for the defenders.
Strategies in Paint

As the Paint is an integral part of the basketball court, there is no doubt that the players will develop strategies and use techniques to get high percentage shots in this rectangular area. Posting up, stretching the floor, etc., are some of the techniques that players use along with the game strategy. The defense team tries to keep the offensive players out because of the high percentage of field goals.

The sacred rectangle is secure only if the team uses the zone defense and weak-side help. This is a very crucial interior position as there are high chances of the game getting abusive. The referee warns and gives leeway to the player who is involved in physical abuse. Usually, the centers dominate because of the shot-blocking and rebounding.

Restrictions in Paint

These are some of the restrictions present in the Paint to maintain some discipline during the game. Offensive foul and three-second rule are the two types of violation.
Offensive Foul

As a result of physical plays, the offensive foul is the one that is most expected in a basketball game. Everybody in the court, including the inside, can also get foul. Elbowing, pushing, or punching are considered illegal if the defensive players are in the restricted area.

Three Seconds Rule

While playing for years, the players get stronger and gain more experience. They might sit under the basket while being the center. Due to this, a three-second rule was derived. This rule states that a player is not allowed to stand in a lane for more than three seconds, and if he does, it will result in a turnover. Many other rules like technical fouls are also a violation.

Point Calculation

Point calculation is a simple process in the Paint or the critical area. When a player makes a basket, two points are added to the total score of the team. If a team scores six baskets, they have a total of twelve points. The painted area is not always painted and has a natural hardwood court.
Free Throw

A foul shot, also known as a free throw, is awarded to the offensive player after a foul by the defensive player. The foul line is located at the end of the Paint and is parallel to the baseline. The foul line has a length of 18’10” and has three throw attempts. All these three attempts of the free throw depend upon the bonus one gets from the opposite team.


What is the paint rule in basketball?

The paint rule states that the defensive players are not allowed to stay in the restricted area or the Paint for more than three seconds if not guarding the offensive players. And if they do not obey the rule, they will be given a technical foul.

How many players are allowed in the Paint in basketball?

It is a must for a team to have four players on the court every time. But generally, a basketball consists of five players. In an exceptional case, three players can play if one of them gets injured or hurt.

How long is the Paint in basketball?

According to the NBA and International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the Paint for schools and colleges is 12′ wide. Similarly, it is 16′ wide for a professional basketball court.

Why is it called to paint in basketball?

The players are not allowed to stay in the Paint for more than three seconds, so it is painted with a different color from the court to distinguish between them.

What does the Paint mean?

“Hard in the paint” is an expression that explains that the players are at their best when they play inside the Paint or the keyhole.


A painted area shows the most critical regions in the game. The game inside the Paint or keyhole of the basketball court is more exciting. It gives more value to the scoreboard and the teams. The style and the strategies of the group inside the Paint of the basketball court depict their performance. The team dominating the Paint and having good techniques is expected to win the game. I hope you understand what painting on a basketball court is, and this article will help you get a better understanding of the game.

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