155 Cool Compass Tattoo Designs (Meaning & Aftercare Tips)

Compass Tattoo History

Sailors and seafarers who have passed through rough seas several centuries ago will often reward themselves by acquiring a compass tattoo. This ensures them that they would reach the port safe and sound, and it’ll keep them safe while they travel across large oceans and seas.

A compass tattoo, just like the object it was set up after, has been there  for a long time now. For plenty of that time, the designs for the compass tattoo, along with the compass rose tattoo, became the number one domain of those seafarers who were after tattoos for all sorts of different reasons. Perhaps the most prominent ones were the seamen who had this belief that a compass tattoo can bring them good luck in their journeys, and guarantees that they would return to their shores alive and well. Considering the fact that a sailor’s job is no easy feat, thanks to malnutrition, unpredictable seas and other forms of danger, luck was indeed a key factor in times like these.

Nowadays, the compass is a sign of being stuck, exactly knowing which direction the wearer’s life is heading to, and having the ability to concentrate on moving forward no matter what the situation may be for the wearer.

A compass does follow a very simple design. As everyone knows, it carries four different directions: North, south, east, and west. These four points are placed in their respective positions, surrounding a circular base. The interior of the compass’ rose is decorated with a lovely star, which is supposed to symbolize the North Star. The North Star is an important navigational tool that people have long used to journey themselves from a singular point to the other.

What first arose a hundred years ago as a mere superstition set to take a life of its own, especially in today’s society. The compass tattoo has shoot up to become a hugely popular tattoo design. And in regards to the compass itself, it won’t be put in use until the Chinese Han Dynasty in 206 BC. When the compass was first put in practice, it became an important tool not just for navigating, but also for geomancy and fortune-telling.


Types Of Compass Tattoo Designs

  • Compass tattoo with direction – One of the main objectives of using a compass is to point the reader to the correct direction. Plenty of these compass tattoos contain the alphabets that stand for the four cardinal directions: North, South, East, West (or N S E W). The Northern direction is thought to be the main yardstick that helps you find the other three directions. That’s because this was the one that was most travelers and sailors use it , so they can get a good idea about their current location. A good tattoo design with these four points is just amazing, and is a favorite piece by plenty of youngsters.
  • Anchor compass tattoo – Similar to the anchor, the compass was once a symbol of Christian faith. An anchor compass tattoo can symbolize religious guidance.
  • Brass compass tattoo – As plenty of people may already know, a lot of compasses are comprised of brass. The reason for this is because brass is a material that doesn’t react to salt water, so it doesn’t rust. Brass is also the top material used for constructing nautical equipment.
  • Compass and butterflies tattoo – A common symbolism of the butterfly is having a free spirit and the desire to find and enjoy freedom. The compass tattoo points out at those who like to travel and want to go on lots of adventures. Those who like to decorate their bodies with these types of tattoos do have an inconsistent, spontaneous, freedom-loving and open-minded personality.
  • Broken compass tattoo with ribbon for men – This is a truly vintage inspired tattoo design with accompanying broken coordinates. It’s a tattoo that is nicely connected with a philosophical inscription, which suggests those who see it to take a look back at our past and embrace it, before going on towards the future.
  • Compass and rose tattoo – Another hugely popular design. It’s not that surprising to think that a flower and a compass tattoo look amazing together. These two look absolutely great together, especially if your chosen flower is a rose. The design as a whole represents sacrifice, love, and honor. If you’re willing to prove your love to something, then a rose and compass tattoo combo is the right design for you.
  • Compass and pirate ship tattoo – This tattoo which is comprised of a pirate ship sailing across the rough seas, joined by an image of the compass signifies that you are a highly determined and adventurous person who is willing to face any obstacle, similar to what a pirate does.
  • Wooden compass tattoo – This is a wooden compass tattoo that has a couple of gold-encrusted red roses, all created in the old-school tattoo style. Everything about this particular tattoo – Starting from its brass beads up to the woodwork does stand out by itself, giving the design a clean and very realistic appearance.
  • Floral compass tattoo – In case you want to find a lighthearted tattoo design, then this compass tattoo, with its bold colors, is perfect for you. It’s a tattoo that suits women more than men. Leaves and flowers are a common themes in plenty of compass tattoo designs.
  • 3D compass tattoo in black and white – This tattoo also has a realistic look and feel to it. Blackwork ink is put in use here, with the map as a background. Like flowers, maps are an understandably obvious companion to a compass tattoo design. This tattoo is a thing for adventure-seekers and frequent travelers.


Compass Tattoo Meaning

A compass tattoo can represent anything ranging from protection to guidance, to searching high and low for your real passions. This is because a compass itself has a very rich history in so many cultures, and as a tattoo design in itself. No matter if you want to pay tribute to your own heritage or if you are looking to find a brand new direction in your life, a compass tattoo is an excellent choice in design.

Compasses are a great tool for those who love to travel, especially with military men and sailors. It is a tool whose mandate is to provide you with a sense of direction. Apart from having a utilitarian value, a compass’ design is both cool and classy, so it’s not really surprising that people want to get a tattoo of this invention. No matter if it carries a meaning for the wearer or if they want to get one solely because it looks cool, a compass tattoo is a popular design.

Guidance is one of the top meanings of a compass tattoo. The main purpose of a compass was to guide sailors across the ocean’s rough waves, telling them which direction leads to dry lands or calmer waters. Safety and protection are two of its other meanings – Some sailors hold to the notion that a compass tattoo  was similar to an amulet, which allows them to return home completely safe.


The third meaning of a compass tattoo is freedom. People who get compass tattoos are individuals who are weary of being inside a box and would want to find brand new destinations go on different adventures. It could also mean that you are loyal to your significant other.

Since the compass carries a circular shape, it could also represent harmony, infinity, and endless possibilities or a never-ending friendship or relationship. Chinese tradition and Feng Shui states that the compass also brings positive energy, fortune and good luck to those who carry it with them.

A compass tattoo can also work as a memorial or a tribute to somebody, to immortalize a certain event, moment, or place. Sometimes a compass could be a representation of the wearer overcoming a particular obstacle or hardship in life.

Since technology is so up a notch nowadays, it may seem like the humble compass has been seemingly blank over time. But despite all that, the compass is still an important part of seafaring. A compass doesn’t have to be round – It actually comes in various shapes and looks, including a beautiful star compass. There’s also a Viking compass, a lodestone compass, a Rose of Winds compass, and lastly, the Luo Pan compass. The symbolic meaning of a compass tattoo can depend on what is  call in mind of  the tattoo design, as well as the accompanying elements.


Ideal Placement of Compass Tattoos

The overall look of a tattoo can be downright amazing. However, if the positioning of the tattoo isn’t correct, then it could end up compromising on the overall look of the tattoo. A compass tattoo can fit nearly every part of the body. But it’s always great to place in the right kind of compass tattoo on the best body part, so the design is  surfaces out. You can still place it on any spot where you see fit, without having to worry too much about whether others will be able to catch a glimpse of your new ink.

The placement of a compass tattoo is totally up to the wearer, but technically for men, the shoulders, the back, the hands, forearms, and half-sleeves are the best spots. Meanwhile, for the ladies, the spine, thighs, sleeves, ribs, and forearms are great places for a compass tattoo. A compass tattoo also looks wonderful when placed on the ribs.

A huge tattoo looks amazing on the back and chest area. And once again, it’s all up to you if you want the tattoo to completely occupy your back or just utilize a small part of it for the tattoo. The left or right side of the back is a great spot for young people to put it on. Tinier compass tattoos, meanwhile, can be a reminder of clarity and strength that you may have as a person. Even though its presence isn’t always clear, and sometimes people may even ignore this, but you’ll definitely know if it’s there. Oftentimes,  you will find these smaller tattoos in more private spots of the body – Ankles, wrists, or the inner arms. Simply put, a compass tattoo is most at times to visible by you, and you alone.


Also See: 155+ Most Meaningful Tribal Wolf Tattoo Designs

Compass Tattoo Preparation Tips

Bring a small bag of essentials when you’re about to head over to your appointment. There are actually a couple of things you can do here so you can make things a bit easy for yourself. Bring a bag that contains the following essentials: Water or a snack, fully charged gadgets, and headphones in case you plan on listening to some music or watching a film.

Eat a good meal beforehand and bring a sugary snack with you. The meal you eat before the session should contain carbs and wholesome enough to provide you with loads of energy. Carbohydrates and sugar will keep your blood sugar levels on the rise for the next couple of hours. A decent meal can also help you stay alert and not feel to exhausted or sleepy.

The sugary snack is there to help you out in case you feel faint or light headed during the session. A needle passing through your skin repeatedly could make your sugar levels to drop, potentially causing you to faint or feel dizzy. These snacks can help your body bring back those sugar levels and keep you energized.


Are Compass Tattoos Painful?

With every prick of the needle, a tattoo gun inserts pigmentation inside your skin. As a response, your immune system sends out these special white cells known as macrophages to handle the pain. A couple of ink will actually disappear when the macrophages attack it, but plenty of them don’t. These dead macrophages, alongside the ink that they didn’t fight off embeds itself inside your skin cells, called fibroblasts. These will be visible through the thin layers of tissue which cover them up.

Everyone is aware that we can acquire a scratch and not feel even the tiniest amount of pain, or get a paper cut without even batting an eyelash. Tattoos are painful as you will need greater pigment  in order to make them permanent.


Frequently Asked Questions About Compass Tattoos

  • Are there any tattoo shops that don’t carry flash art?
  • Yes! Plenty of tattoo shops out there will carry customized or bespoke tattoo art, and this guarantees that you will only get the best in regards to tattoos.
  • What if you want a customized tattoo?
  • If customized tattoos are your thing, then it will be a great idea that you visit the shop for a consultation with the artist, so the two of you can talk about the upcoming tattoo design. It also helps if you can bring any reference material that would seem relevant or important to how your tattoo’s design looks. This can help the two of you understand each other in a much easier way. You don’t have to bring in an image that is too specific, even if these examples send out the same kind of feel or vibe that you want your tattoo to convey. This will help your artist learn about what you really need. A professional artist must also be able to provide you with plenty of great advice in regards to the limitations of the art that they can do. Don’t forget that a tattoo involves needles and blood, and not paper and pen. They should also give you advice about which part of the body the tattoo looks great on, and the perception when other people see it. For instance, a smaller tattoo doesn’t look good when placed on the legs, but it suits the wrists perfectly. Another thing to discuss is how long your tattoo will last over time. Your artist has the ability to build up some pretty amazing and complex tattoos, but tattoo ink will spread inside your skin as time goes on. So your small and delicate tattoo could look amazing during the daytime, but in a couple of years, it may end up looking very unrecognizable and fuzzy, especially if you don’t moisturize it properly. A much more detailed design and bolder lines, on the other hand, will look amazing on your skin for up to ten years. Even though the final decision is always up to the client, they still have to make an conversant choice.
  • How do I choose a tattoo design that’s right for me?
  • Go visit any shop that you want, chat with the artist and the staff, and get an overall feel and vibe of the shop itself. For some, acquiring a tattoo can be a very personal experience. This is why you and your artist have to have a good conversation together and feel safe and comfortable when you stay inside their shop. Just how great is their customer service? Some artists will treat clients with contempt, unfortunately, as if having to work with them comes off as a chore that they had no other option than to work for them. This shouldn’t be the case, especially if it’s the client’s first tattoo. If this happens, then all you need to do is to walk away – There are other shops out there who will treat you with respect.


How Much Does A Compass Tattoo Cost?

There are many factors out there which can greatly affect the pricing of the new tattoo. A simple tattoo design can cost only fifty to a hundred bucks. And this is actually true since the complete amount of time it takes to finish a plain tattoo is only up to an hour, sometimes even less than that. Meanwhile, a customized tattoo could fetch a bigger price. Apart from this, picking an original design for your new ink can also add in to the final price. It is a factor that most tattoo artists acknowledge it, since they will need twice the amount of time in creating a fully custom -built tattoo, in comparison to just adjusting or changing up a design from a flash art book.

The size can also affect the cost of your tattoo. Plenty of artists out there will charge their clients by the hour, and not according to how your tattoo looks. If you decide to get a small tattoo that your artist can finish within an hour, it’ll end up costing far less in comparison to a huge back piece, or a full-sleeve leg or arm tattoo that requires probably an entire day to finish.

The spot where you want to place the tattoo on will also determine the price. The more painful or sensitive the chosen area is, the more expensive it’ll be. Parts of the body that don’t have too much pain include the shoulders, the calves, the outer legs and thighs, the butt, upper arms, and forearms.


Compass Tattoo Maintenance Tips

Sometimes the scabs forming on your tattoo will tend to feel itchy, especially while they peel off. Do not scratch or pick on these scabs, and instead let them fall off naturally. If it itches too much, simply apply a layer of moisturizer or ointment.

Do not expose your tattoo to direct sunlight. The sun’s harsh rays could end up blistering your skin and even bleach out the colors of your tattoo. And because of this, it’s a great idea to keep your new ink away from direct sunlight for up to four weeks, until the first stage of the healing process ends. Put on some sunscreen to stop your tattoo’s colors from prematurely fading away.

Do not soak your new ink in bodies of water. Until the healing process is complete, never swim in a pool, the beach, or even soak it in the bath or a hot tub. By doing so, you will expose your tattoo to plenty of water as this could pull the ink out of your skin and harm its overall appearance. And water from public places could also carry different kinds of bacteria and chemicals which can damage the tattoo.

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