I believe there is already a sticky for HOW to apply thermal paste. But I'm here to ask which method you personally prefer.
I have an i5 3570K coming back from RMA and a tube of AS5.
I've already applied the AS5 on my graphics cards, spreading it, since there is no heat-spreader.
What I usually hear is that it's recommended to just apply a drop or line of TIM, then let the pressure do the work. But to me, that feels so....inefficient. It seems like you would have TOO much TIM in the center, and less on the outside, where you could take advantage of additional surface area.
I prefer to spread over the surface of the heat spreader using an almost translucent film of the stuff. I'm going to see how small of an amount I can evenly spread on this next one. I figure, there's all that surface area, and extra TIM in the center would only DECREASE thermal conductivity, so why not make it a thin film that takes advantage of all the space?