One of the timeless questions hehe,
peadot is fine, stripes are fine (especially with the direct touch line coolers)
and spreading with a card or bagged finger is also fine, there are a million ways to apply paste and none are particularly 'better' than any other,
as long as its thin enough, too much is as bad as not enough
Do you have a pic showing how much is the right amount? Like a pic of a cpu with a pea size on it, so i know what to shoot for?