Compass Tattoo: A Guide to Designs, Styles, and Meanings

Compass Tattoo
What is the symbolism of the compass tattoo? Where to place it? What style to choose? Find out all the answers and get inspired by our article.

It is always hard to decide on the design of a new tattoo. If you want to ink something that is associated with life path, traveling, or guidance, then you can narrow it down to a couple of symbols. The compass is a universal tattoo that suits everyone and looks great in all styles in variations. 

In this article, you will learn more about compass tattoo meaning, best placements, and styles to get it. Keep reading and explore this intricate symbol to the fullest.

A compass tattoo is a positive and lucky tattoo to get. Find the best tattoo artist in the US near you in our database. 

Reasons To Get a Compass Tattoo

For a long time compass was the only item used for orientation. No surprise, that compass tattoo has a lot of meanings. It is only up to you to decide on the final interpretation of this unique and eye-catching symbol.

Here are the most commonly-used meanings of compass tattoo:

🔝 Guidance. Have you already decided on your big dream, or all decisions in life are guided by love, a sense of family, or religion? Go ahead and get a compass tattoo to show your devotion.

🌟 Independence. You are the one who selects the faith. During the life journey, you discover your own personality and go through personal development. Why not have the compass tattoo to show this?

🏃 The direction in life. All of us make significant choices in life which determine who we will be in the future. During our journey, we get lost, but sooner or later we return to our path. The compass tattoo is a reminder that despite the hard time you had in the past, you are still standing.

⛰️ Adventures. Are you up exploring this world and living your life to the full? A compass tattoo is right for you, to highlight your personality.

🧭 Protection. A compass tattoo is used as a protection symbol from taking the wrong path in life. 

The Best Placement for the Compass Tattoo

Compass tattoos look classy despite the location. In the list below we select the most common placements: 

  • Forearm. It is probably the most popular. Usually, people opt for a long design to fill the length of the forearm. It is also the best place while account for aging. It neither changes in size nor stretches a lot.
  • A calf is a good placement for the compass tattoo. It is not as visible as the forearm and is easy to hide. 
  • The shoulder is a great area, especially if you have enough space there. Great to have a more rounded image to emphasize the body shape.
  • Back. The most common design is a simple compass with an arrow that goes along the spine. Moreover, if you want to have a large-scale tattoo, the back is the best placement. 
  • The wrist is suitable for a small and simple compass tattoo. We recommend choosing the minimalistic design. Dense lines on small tattoos can blend with time. The wrist is the best place to get a reminding compass tattoo, as you will see it constantly.

Inspirational Compass Tattoo Design Ideas

Compass rose

The compass rose to the name of the figure with indicated direction (north, south, east, and west) traditionally with graduated markings. 

Apart from the meaning we described above, every world side represents natural elements:

  • North is the water.
  • South is fire.
  • East is air.
  • West is wind. 

With Map

Do you have an adventurous spirit and love exploring new places? A compass tattoo with a map is the right tattoo choice for you. For a long time, they were the only things used for orientation during traveling. 

The meaning of the tattoo can be that you always looking for new destinations in your life. In a more direct interpretation, it is a sign that you love traveling and want to see the world.

With Arrows

The combination of compass and tattoos is one of the most common. And here is no surprise, because it shows one’s determination to your purpose and strives to achieve more. Moreover, people use compass tattoos with arrows to illustrate new chapters in their life and that they are looking for new opportunities.

Watercolor Compass

Watercolor compass tattoos are graceful and dainty like it is painted on a canvas rather than the skin. It creates an original image of bright colors which fade and blend into each other. Usually, watercolors are used as a background for compass outlines.

With Anchor

The combination of the compass tied to the anchor for tattoos is classy as back in time was popular among sailors. Used elements here present the opposite forces in life. While the compass show you new directions and is associated with adventures, the anchor keeps you grounded and safe.

Compass with anchor tattoos also means that no matter where you go, you still have a place to return. Often people add to this tattoo names of relatives, who create their backup in life. 

Viking Compass

The Viking compass or the Vegvísir is an ancient symbol that is meant to prevent a person from losing his way in life. It is also a symbol of protection.

Interesting fact! There is no evidence that Vegvísir was a Viking symbol, it was first described 800 years after the end of the Viking era.

Do you like Viking tattoos, culture, and history? Check our article on Viking tattoos.

Simple Compass

Simple compass tattoos are no less cool than big and realistic art. Minimalistic forms and petite design stress symbolism and your personality without overcrowding details

Simple compass tattoos are schematic and depict arrows or compass roses without a lot of shading. The symbol is often combined with additional geometric forms to emphasize the shape of the compass.

With Letterings

Combining quotes with a compass is a powerful way to represent your motto. Usually, these phrases are related to life paths, searching for new ideas/directions, and traveling. Think about the phrase, that fully resonates with your personality and beliefs Some common phrases are:

  • Before you ask which way to go remember where you’ve been
  • Life is a journey and only holds the map
  • Not all who wander are lost
  • Adventure
  • We are all lost
  • My heart leads me to you
  • And yet it all seems limitless
  • Guide me
  • Give up the life you planned for the life that is waiting for you

Another common thing is to place dates near the compass tattoo. Maybe some moments in life change it completely, why not ink it as a reminder for this event?

Traditional Style

Old school tattoos are probably one of the most recognizable styles with well-established authenticity. American traditional tattoos are vibrant, have bold outlines, and have minimum shading.

Compass tattoo in traditional style is a main element of the composition. It can go either alone or with additional symbols like swallows or roses. 

Nautical Motifs

Do you like sailing? Maybe you love adventurous stories about pirates or the Age of Discovery? In the past, one small compass arrow guided thousands of people through endless water toward new destinations. Even the best compass tattoo can be enhanced with a nautical motif to add meaning.

  • A boat means new journeys/beginnings, home, good luck, a way of life
  • Helm associates that you choose the direction of your life on your own

You can also use a compass tattoo with nautical motifs to show your eagerness for adventures.

Geometric Compass

Geometric tattoos utilize simple shapes to create a complex composition with multiple elements. These tattoos have a modern and futuristic look. 

Even though it may look easy to create this design, it is not. The balanced combination of different forms, their position, and thickness of lines, all these factors contribute to the perception of the tattoo.

With Flowers

A combination of compass tattoos with flowers is classic but very cool. Pant elements make the art more delicate. They can be used as a decorative element or to create new meanings. For example, roses mean love, beauty, and passion, while peony is associated with attractiveness, nobility, and honor.

For instance, when the compass is combined with roses, it means that you are guided by the heart and power of life. It also may be a symbol, that you follow your partner.

Trash Polka 

The trash polka style has gained popularity recently. It is a mix of surrealism, realistic images, scripts, and abstract lines. This style has a lot of contrast and combines bold with thin lines, shading, and bright red element in the composition. It looks like a chaotic collage. 

Do you like this style? Check our article about Trash polka tattoos for more inspiration


Neo-traditional tattoos look very similar to their old-school ancestor. The main difference is that it uses more palettes of colors and has more variations in line thickness. We are convinced that the compass tattoo looks cool in both styles.


The compass tattoo suits everyone and has a very deep meaning under it. Its symbolism is universal and relates to the life of every person. Compass tattoo means guidance, life path, adventures, and good luck. 

We collected the coolest compass tattoo ideas for you and gathered all the necessary information about it. You need to decide on the style, and then find a tattoo artist near you. For this use our database of 1000 artists from the US to find the best for you.


🧭 What Does a Compass Tattoo Symbolize?

A compass tattoo is associated with good luck, adventures, independence, life path, and guidance.

🍀 Is the Compass Tattoo Lucky?

Yes, the compass is a good symbol with many positive meanings. Travelers or people who want to keep the right path in their life got compass tattoos as a symbol of luck and guidance.

❓ Which Way Should a Compass Tattoo Face?

In our opinion, it s better when the North points to the upper arm and the South to the wrist. This compass tattoo is easy to show and it also goes along with body position. However, if you want to create a feeling that you are actually “holding” the compass, then ink it and vice versa.

🙂 Is Compass Tattoo a Cliche?

Compass tattoos are cool and trendy, so no surprise that many people have them. However, in this case, this is not about being super original, is more about the meaning you put into the tattoo.


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