Compass Tattoos

The compass tattoo is a design that is much more popular than many people know. With the purpose of compasses as a way to navigate, it represents the idea of finding one’s way in the world. This guide will delve deep on the topic of getting a compass tattoo, as well as the symbolism and meanings associated with this design.

Tradition Of Compass Tattoos

Compasses are very important instruments to sailors, especially since it can mean the difference between getting home and getting lost in the big, wide sea. Compass tattoos normally look like the traditional compasses that include the North Star and a wind rose. The North Star indicates which direction is north and helps sailors orient themselves in the open seas while the wind rose (also known as compass rose or Rose of the Winds) shows cardinal directions using its petals.

Compass tattoos were, in the past, much more than just ink on the bodies, as sailors got these tattoos due to the belief that it will protect them on their voyage. It also reminded them of home and what they leave behind when they go onboard. These are the main reasons why sailors got these tattoos on their body.

While most people getting compass tattoos nowadays are doing so for other reasons, its symbolic meaning has remained. It is now one of the most popular designs between tattoo artists and customers.

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History Of The Compass Tattoo 

History Of The Compass Tattoo 

It is believed that the compass tattoo was first designed by sailors from Spain. However, the tattoo became hugely popular because of the Celts and other Europeans centuries ago. Back then, the reason for a tattoo was quite literal, meaning the wearers were either the sailors themselves or their family members who wish them all a good voyage and way home.

The instrument itself, however, has also been traced to ancient India, where it is called Matsya Yantra. In the past 2 centuries, it has made its way from China all the way to medieval Africa. In these cultures and in pop culture, the compass is a feature of tattoo art.

How To Know If A Compass Tattoo Is For You

If you believe that tattoos represent one’s personality or spirit, then you would look for the best design that reflects who you truly are. People who have compass tattoos are normally adventurous and outgoing. Plus, they are ready for anything and can “go with the flow.” They do not necessarily have to be globe-trotters but they normally like to travel, discover new places, learn new things, and broaden their horizons.

Some people, on the other hand, might be drawn to this design because they are still finding their own way. Thus, the compass is to guide them navigate through life and important decisions or choices.

The other factor that links compass tattoo owners is the love of the sea. They might have family members who were in the Navy or have worked as professional sailors. They might also simply love to travel and want something nautical as their tattoo design.

What Compass Rose Tattoos Symbolize

Compass Rose Tattoo

Much like other designs, a compass tattoo might carry several meanings or symbols. Customers choosing this design might find one or a few of them resonate with them and thus, lead them to opt for this kind of tattoo.

Finding Your Way

In the past, the compass has been instrumental in helping sailors find their way to their destination, in a literal sense. While people will still need maps or instructions to get from point A to point B, most people who opt for a compass tattoo are lost in a figurative sense. Thus, the compass tattoo helps them to remember their path and to stick to it. It might also help them discover where they want to go in life. Everyone is in this metaphorical voyage of life and having a compass tattoo is loved by both the lifelong wanderers or those bent on their paths in life.

Luck And Protection

Much like the sailors of centuries ago, a compass tattoo can represent their physical track and where they truly want to be. It also protects them from losing their way or losing track of their sense of self along the way.

Achieving Goals

Some tattoo designs feature the North Star and the Rose of the Winds. These tattoos, specifically when combined with other elements like a star, are physical reminders of their voyage or even the way back home. Beyond that, it might be interpreted as a way to achieve their goals. Once you know the direction and the guide to get there, you can try and make it.

Going Home

Globalization has meant that people easily move away from home and work somewhere else. Homesickness is real and one of the ways to remind people of where they come from is to get a compass rose tattoo. It might also be adopted by those whose loved ones are away or simply by couples who want to show that their partner is their true home.


Travelers often find themselves in strange new places and cultures. The compass tattoo, in this case, might be accompanied by a map or other travel-related icons and thus, symbolize their love of being out there in the world.

A New Beginning

Some people choose a compass tattoo for deeper meanings. Those who have been through tough times find that this design reminds them to move forward and leave the fateful past (or even an addiction, for example) behind. The tattoo might also be done as a reminder of an important life event or place.

Good Luck And Positive Energy

In Feng Shui, the compass is a sign of fortune, prosperity, and good luck.

Popular Compass Rose Tattoo Designs

Compass Rose Tattoos

The compass itself is not a complicated icon or design, thus it can be accompanied by other elements to make the tattoo itself more interesting or meaningful. Here are some popular designs for a compass tattoo.

Compass With The North Star

This design is both popular and traditional, as the pair has often been depicted together. The North Star, of course, determines which of the directions goes north. In the great and vast sea, sailors only had the North Star as their reference point for their compass. In short, this design is both aesthetically pleasing and accurate, depicting how navigators from hundreds of years ago searched for direction.

Compass With Direction

Another typical design is the compass itself with the cardinal directions stated, North, South, East or West. While the North Star has been traditionally used to help sailors point their compasses the right way, having the other letters (N, S, E or W) can make it easier to find one’s way. This design is hugely popular with younger customers.

Compass With Anchor Or Globe

The compass is an instrument found in most sea vessels. When an anchor or a globe is added into the design, it highlights the meaning of the tattoo, which is traveling to the corners of the world.

Compass With A Zodiac Sign

The compass tattoo can also be modified to feature a personal zodiac sign, as well as character or symbols. There are various astrological characters whether western or eastern but make sure you are aware of what these symbols mean.

Compass With Kanji

Kanji characters will not just add to your tattoo’s design, but they also enhance the meaning based on which character you choose. The most common characters are ones featuring universal themes like peace, truth, and love. Another symbol that is significant to you can easily be incorporated into the tattoo design.

Compass With Sun

While not common, this can be a playful alternative to your compass rose tattoo. You can have your tattoo artist use the rays of the sun to show cardinal directions instead.

Celtic Design

Some Celtic and tribal tattoo elements can be incorporated into any design like your compass rose tattoo design. This is a nod to the importance of the compass to the seafaring Celts of the past.

Other Design Elements

The above-mentioned designs are only some of the possibilities, but the list does not end here. Female customers, especially, might want to add some more feminine objects like flowers, feathers, ribbons, or dream catchers.

The flexibility of the compass tattoo goes on. It can be impressive even in plain black color, but it will also look nice in color. Some common color combinations include peach and green, purple and pink, yellow and peach, green and teal blue, but the possibilities are endless when it comes to designing your compass rose tattoo.

Where To Have Your Compass Tattoo Placed

Where To Have Your Compass Tattoo Placed

The simplicity of this tattoo design makes it uncomplicated to find the right spot for your new tattoo. In fact, it is now quite cool to have the tattoo done somewhere visible to show it off. Of course, the location of the tattoo is dependent on the preference of the customer and whether he or she wants it to be seen by the public or not. Most people get a tattoo for everyone to see while some prefer something they can hide under their clothing and bare when they want to. Because the tattoo is permanent, finding the right spot can be much better for both customers and also for the tattoo artist himself.

Here is a list of the popular locations for your compass tattoo:

On The Arms

The arms are obviously the best place for a compass tattoo because of the size and the ease of accessing the arms. They can be easily shown off by wearing tank tops or they can be easily hidden when needed or when the weather is cooler. If you prefer it to be visible at all times, then you can have it at the wrist or back of the hand. Otherwise, the arms or the elbows are also possible.

On The Chest

What Compass Rose Tattoos Symbolize

The chest is also a well-loved location for tattoos, but it is not as visible compared to the arms. If it is, however, important enough to have the tattoo close to your heart, then the chest is your best bet.

On The Back

The back is a great spot if you prefer your tattoo to not easily be seen. You can simply keep it hidden under your clothing and if you prefer to show it off, you can either take your shirt off (if you are male) or wear something that reveals it, like a tank top (if you are female).

On The Hips

This is another common location for tattoos, but only for women. The interesting thing is, they prefer this spot because they feel that having a tattoo here will highlight the beauty of their hips, and it is a great asset to them.

The Wrist

As mentioned above, the wrists are a good choice when it comes to putting tattoos that are always visible. The advantage is that you can have 2 made, one on each wrist but even just one can look great.

On The Feet

A compass rose tattoo will look good either on the left or the right foot. They can still be visible based on the kind of footwear you are wearing. This is a trend that quite a few famous people and celebrities have started.

On The Legs

Popular Compass Rose Tattoo Designs

Either one of your legs is also perfect spot for your compass rose tattoo. Because the legs are longer, you can achieve your desired illusion easily. Depending on your gender and your choice of clothes, your tattoo can be hidden or shown. The advantage is that both are possible and you can easily cover it up when needed.

The Stomach

While some people prefer to have it done on the stomach, it might not be the best idea as the skin might expand when you gain weight. The advantage of this location, however, is that you have adequate space for a bigger tattoo compared to other parts of the body.

On The Thighs

The last location you can consider is the thigh. The outer thighs, of course, make more sense and are a bit more hidden, making it perfect for those who do not want something very visible.

Guide To Choosing A Compass Tattoo Artist And Design

Choosing A Compass Tattoo Artist And Design

If you have made up your mind about getting a compass rose tattoo on your body, the next step is to find the person to make it. Even if you have an idea about the design, you should still wait to discuss the final style with the artist himself.

Choose The Design

The first step is to make up your mind on what kind of tattoo you want. You can browse online for ideas on designs, making sure you check pictures to have a more complete idea on how it looks on the skin. Some people want a meaningful tattoo, so they choose something symbolic like the compass. It can also be something silly or fantastic, which is doable by adding some funny elements to your main design. Of course, some text can be added if you prefer it.

Plan The Location

Above is the list of the common areas where people have their compass tattoos done. You should take note, however, to avoid the hands, the neck, and the face. You might know someone with great tattoos on the fingers or the hands, but the unfortunate truth is that they might blur or fade after a while. The lines will thicken over time and the details can get blurred. After a few years, your nice compass tattoo can look very different.

The neck and the face, on the other hand, cannot be very easily hidden and thus, should not be picked. Unless you are already a billionaire or stand to inherit a fortune, you might unintentionally hurt your career by having a compass tattoo there.

Read About Tattoo Salons On The Area

You should do your homework on the various places to have a tattoo done where you live. You want only to go somewhere that has good reviews and reputation. The best is to show up for a visit and observe how the employees are and whether you feel comfortable there. Most salons also have Instagram photos of previous work for you to check how good they are.

Match The Tattoo Design To The Artist

Tattoo artists are all-around artists, but some do specific designs better than others. You do not want to go to a dragon tattoo artist and ask for a tattoo with lettering as it might not be his specialty or his interest. Moreover, you want to go to someone who knows compass rose tattoos better than others.

You should feel comfortable talking to him about your plans for a tattoo. You can show him the designs you are interested in and where you desire to have the tattoo. He will consider your input and finalize the design and the details with you, incorporating his expert knowledge and opinion. If you find yourselves clashing at this stage, then this is a sign to look for someone else.

In the end, every tattoo is an artist’s masterpiece and they want everything to go smoothly. Customer satisfaction is also a huge requirement so find someone you simply feel good with.

Get A Price Estimate Ahead Of Time

Once a design has been agreed upon, the tattoo artist can draw up an estimate of the costs of the compass rose tattoo. You may also ask for their minimum price and their hourly rates. There are various factors that can affect the price, like the artist’s experience, location, and reputation. Some studios ask for a non-refundable deposit before they start sketching the design. This way, the effort and time they spend to come up with the original design will not be unpaid.

When it comes to price, you get what you pay for. This means, you might find a cheaper tattoo artist, but you might end up with a low-quality tattoo. Not everyone will notice it, but upon close inspection, you will see all the imperfections that a better tattoo artist might have avoided making.

Be Flexible

You have to trust that your tattoo artist knows more about tattoos compared to you. If he says something is not doable or does not suit or match, then trust his judgment and follow his advice. It is a great idea to bring the design you are interested in but during your sit-down, you two might tweak it based on factors like location and complexity. While you do not have to accept all his changes, you should at least listen to why he makes these suggestions. He has to turn your ideas into reality, so trust his knowledge and decisions.

Check The Shop’s Certifications And Licenses

Each state has its own regulations when it comes to tattoo studios. You can do a simple research to find out what you state requires and make sure your studio is compliant. These regulations are for your own safety and health, so making sure the studio has them is the best step. Thus, you can reduce your risk and pain; and end up having a safe, fun, and clean experience at the tattoo studio.

Asking about the studio’s sterilization procedures and proof that the artist attended mandatory training is not being rude, it is simply watching out for yourself.

On The Day Of Your Appointment Itself

Make sure you prepare yourself for your new compass rose tattoo by following instructions and recommendations by your tattoo artist. When everything is all set, you can sit back and relax, enjoy the experience and eagerly await your brand-new tattoo. Whether it is your first or your nth time, getting inked is always a thrilling experience!