Compass tattoos—they’re pretty neat. Just the thought of traveling to far flung corners of the globe is exhilarating. And as someone who travels quite a bit, I can tell you that the idea of traveling is often more exciting than when you’re actually on the road itself. It’s that notion of being in a better place, that pasture of greener grass, that urge to see and be places that you’ve never been before that releases those adventure endorphins in your brain. With all that being said, a compass tattoo is enough to evoke all of those feelings and more. So if you love travel, or at least the idea of traveling, then a compass may just be the perfect design for you. Ahead, are 70 of the best examples of compass tattoos you’re likely to see all day.
A double exposure design
A compass doesn’t have to be one of those basic designs you would expect a 17th century sailor to have. We tend to associate the compass with the sea, so what better way to illustrate this relationship than with a little of the sea itself.
A watercolor compass tattoo
This particular design has been around. And when I say been around, I mean graced just about every list of compass tattoos that’s ever been created. But the whole point of this list is to showcase the best compass tattoos in existence, and in order to be the best, it needs the best. However, I do believe the quote is “Not all who wander are lost.”
A detailed design
It comes as no surprise that famed tattoo artist Doctor Woo is behind this detailed masterpiece. Compass tattoos come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s hard to top a design that looks as if it actually works. Behold, a seemingly functional compass tattoo.
A floral compass
If you’re of the female gender and have eyes, you’re probably swooning over this design right now. And if you aren’t, well, you may not want scroll the rest of this list because I can tell you right now that we have much different tastes. Banul kills it no matter what she works on. And this little compass surrounded by a diamond of flowers is some of her best work.
A crisp design
Doctor Woo aka Brain Woo has a well-earned reputation for being the doctor of detail. And even though this design is uncharacteristically light on the details, it still has that signature Doctor Woo vibe that everyone’s come to know and love.
A sternum piece
Sometimes small designs just don’t cut it. I mean, what’s the point of having a tattoo if you can’t show it off? This guy was obviously going for the whole “soul surfer” vibe, which required no less than two large nautical themed designs to get the point across. Oh, and please don’t overlook the negative space island between the compass and anchor.
A sketched compass tattoo
When it comes to sketch style compass tattoos, it doesn’t get much better than this. Inez Janiak works the sketch style of design like few others in the industry. In fact, I’m completely underselling her as she is the de facto queen of everything sketch style. Her works are the first thing that come to mind when I think of this particular style and for good reason (see above).
A forearm piece
Here we have the exact opposite of the previous sketch style design. This super clean and symmetrical piece features glass-like accents which add a wonderful bit of color to the mix. This near-perfect design is enough to instantly elevate your status in the travel community (if such a thing were to exist).
An exposed compass
As far as optical illusions go, this forearm piece ranks right up there with the best of them. I realize that a design of this magnitude probably isn’t something your local tattooist could pull off, but it is inspirational from a design stand point at least. Everything from the compass to the map just oozes awesomeness.
A hot air balloon
Travel isn’t reserved to only planes, trains, boats, and automobiles. There’s hot air balloons, too! Creativity is one of Koray Karagozler’s strong suits. Koray uses watercolor fill in a unique way that doesn’t really color his designs so much as it adds color to them if you know what I mean.
An illustrative back piece
It’s usually the outdoorsy types that get compass tattoos. Having a strong desire for adventure is something you would assume a person with a compass tattoo as large as this one would possess.
A watercolor forearm piece
If you’re looking for something ultra pretty and eye-catching, then something along the lines of this minimalistic outline splashed full of gorgeous watercolor hues will no doubt get the job done. Georgia Grey’s watercolor style is recognizable from a mile away and one of my favorites.
A compass hand tattoo
When working on dark skin tones, white ink accents incorporated into black ink designs are very attractive. Scrolling patterns flank this enclosed compass to make it one of the coolest pieces I’ve seen all year. Dark skin tones and white ink accents = amazing.
A world map
This is one of the most common themes you’ll come across during your time on this list. A star compass set to a world map background just makes sense given the context of the design. I try to make each list as diverse as possible, but some types of tattoos make that task incredibly difficult.
Pack your crap and just start moving—is what a true wanderlust would probably tell you. Many of us have dreams of traveling the world or even taking shorts trips for that matter, but talking about it and doing it are, as you know, two very different things. Maybe a cool little travel tattoo like the one above will be just what you need to remind you to get off your butt and get moving.
A watercolor ankle design
Barely there and ever-so-delightful, this girly ankle design checks all the boxes for those of you looking for something small and elegant with an overwhelmingly feminine feel. Mini Lau is a Chinese artist that pumps out some seriously beautiful work. If you like what you see here, don’t forget to check out her full portfolio for endless adorable inspiration.
An amazing watercolor mashup
Every so often a design comes along that literally takes my breath away. This design isn’t quite there but it’s about as close as it gets before I actually start gasping for air. There’s a lot going on in this design yet it doesn’t appear cluttered. Ordered chaos is the best way I can put it.
A creative forearm piece
Here we have another design which appears to have a lot going on in a relatively small space. Abstract in nature, this piece wouldn’t be out of place hanging on a gallery wall in some fancy art gallery in SoHo. It appears that this design is an expansion on a design done much earlier (notice the faded nature of the ship).
A perfect chest piece
Remember that crazy talented artist named Inez Janiak that I mentioned earlier? Well, she’s back. Sketch style compasses are a little overrepresented on this list but for good reason of course. Inez delivers home run after home run when it comes to her striking compass designs, which, you can bet you’ll be seeing more of as you get further into the list.
A back shoulder design
As you’ll soon come to notice—if you haven’t already—arrows are a popular addition to compass tattoo designs. Obviously a play on the arrows of a compass, many artists feel inspired to incorporate full-blown bow-and-arrow arrows into their designs and it usually works out well.
Matching compass tattoos
Maybe you and your partner love to travel. Or maybe you just like the aesthetic properties of a compass. Either way, getting a matching set of couple tattoos will help you and your significant other find your way together should you ever get lost along the way.
A beautiful back shoulder piece
Banul strikes again with another absolutely triumphant example of feminine beauty. Korean tattooist Banul does it all, but her floral-infused designs are perhaps my favorite. Seriously, how much are flights to Korea right now?
A scenic compass tattoo
Thanks mostly to Eva Krbdk, circular landscape tattoos are kind of a big deal these days. Many artists dabble, but few actually do these types of designs justice. As you can see, Banul is clearly one of the exceptions. And adding the elements of a compass to the outer rim of the design is a beautiful concept.
A couple of climbers
Believe it or not, the compass is still an important piece of kit for hikers and climbers today. With modern technology, it’s easy to overlook basic navigational equipment like the compass. But fancy tools require batteries and, well, just aren’t as reliable as a good old fashioned compass.
A delicate design
This is one of those designs that gets more and more impressive the longer you stare at it. If you look at the small compartments towards the center of the design you’ll notice some of the most subtly shaded areas you will ever see. But then again, what else would you expect from Doctor Woo?
A sketchy compass
Fun fact: The Chinese “south pointing spoon” is one of the earliest recorded examples of a compass. It consisted of a spoon that pointed south. Surprising. I know.
A small wrist piece
I love seeing tattoos in places where you don’t usually see tattoos. Now I’m not saying that the wrist is anything close to an “unusual” tattoo location, but the upper wrist, I mean, if you were getting a compass tattoo, this would probably be one of the last places you would think of putting it.
A mandala compass tattoo
Now this design is interesting. Out of the thousands of compass tattoos I’ve seen in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever come across one with a mandala twist to it. This design is guaranteed to incite oohh’s and aahh’s and keep you styling for years to come.
A wonderful watercolor forearm design
Jules Boho is an amazing tattooist that favors the watercolor style of design. Her works include just about every subject matter you can imagine and her creative vision is always present in each of her designs. Watercolor designs are beautiful, but what Jules is able to do with ink and a needle is almost something else entirely.
A complex compass
Get something that you can’t wait to show off to the world. Tattoos should not only be special, but they should be points of immense pride and accomplishment. If your friends and family aren’t completely sick of your tattoo, then you definitely left something on the table. If you’re wondering what an amazing tattoo looks like, see above.
A dotwork design
Dotwork compass tattoos are a dime a dozen. But that probably has something to do with how awesome they are. This design looks incredibly at home on where it’s at. It doesn’t pop out like some designs but instead, looks as if it belongs and is doing everything it can to keep this forearm’s Feng Shui intact.
A torn skin illusion
Here we have another excellent optical illusion that uses the whole “torn skin” effect to create a beautiful navigation themed mural. Some think this illusion effect is a bit of a novelty which has seen its better days, but I couldn’t disagree more. This is one of those timeless designs that will never go out of style.
Here’s proof that you can literally add anything to a compass tattoo and still have the coolest design on the block. But in all fairness, anatomical hearts are in a league of their own when it comes to add-on extras. Kentucky, is that you?
A feminine black and grey ink design
Flowers make everything feminine. So does hanging beaded jewelry. And just because a design isn’t full of watercolor pastels and vintage vibes, doesn’t mean it won’t drip elegance on some lucky ladies skin.
A beautiful floral design
I’ve featured this design on the site before and I’ll probably feature it again in the future ’cause it’s just that good. Mini has done a few of these designs—which are almost indistinguishable from each other unless you put the two designs side by side.
A stylish design
I usually try to place the best designs towards the top of the list, but clearly this design got away from me. Well, the fact that I got this far without dropping this design speaks to the quality of this list which is what I’m always striving for. Every part of this design is superb, but it’s the compass itself that’s really special.
A forearm piece
Your first thought may be that these world map designs are getting a little too familiar, but hear me out. Yes there are a lot of these designs on the list, but for good reason. When it comes to compass tattoos, this is what you would call a textbook design. Which means there’s a lot of them and people enjoy them.
A hand tattoo
Baris is another one of those artists that has a style so unique that you can spot his work from a mile away. This diverse design is done in the same style as the other piece we featured by Baris earlier. The watercolor accents are a nice touch, but the perfectly proportional compass is what really steals the show.
A tiny compass
You can always count on Playground to produce a tiny example of just about everything imaginable. Tiny navigational designs of this nature are something you would think would be more popular but surprisingly enough I only came across a few examples of tiny compass tattoos.
Another forearm piece
In case you haven’t noticed, the forearm is by far the most popular location for compass tattoos. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the design, but it seems that almost a third of these designs are found on forearms—not that anyone is complaining.
This cool creation is just one of Kamil Mokot’s many artistic sketch style masterpieces. Kamil, along with BK and Inez Janiak are artists who work strictly in this particular style. Each of these artists have their own unique style within the style which makes their work easily identifiable.
A travel mural
I’m always impressed with people who are able to get just one tattoo. For me, if I were to get, say, a compass tattoo, I’m all but positive that after a year it would develop into something that resembled the forearm mural above. Tattoos are addicting, and anyone that says otherwise is lying.
A creative compass
Tattoos should feel personal. While it’s tempting to take the road most frequently traveled and get a tattoo you know will look good, creating a unique and original design of your own can be a rewarding experience. Great artists aren’t great for no reason. Giving them a little creative freedom can really pay off down the line.
A calf piece
This calf piece is one of my personal favorites because of its crisp lines and ornate nature. Like many other designs on the list, an anchor is present which represents the nautical roots from which the compass was born.
A wanderlust ankle design
It’s no secret that Con Ele creates some pretty fantastic designs. Her smooth style and polished lines give her work that “Instagramable” appeal that so many of us adore. The word “Saudade” is a Portuguese word that means a feeling of longing, melancholy, and nostalgia.
An abstract watercolor design
Jules Boho is quickly becoming one of my favorite watercolor artists. Her colorful and abstract designs are anything but ordinary. And her “to travel is to live” tattoo is one of my all-time favorites and just a beautiful example of what can happen when everything goes right.
A detailed map
And by detailed I mean I think I can see my house from here. This is more of a world map tattoo first and a compass tattoo second. But I figured that anyone who was interested in a compass tattoo would be interested in this design as well.
A wonderful watercolor design
Okay, so there’s a lot of watercolor tattoos on this list, but you know what they say about having too much of a good thing—you can’t. Or maybe I’m confused and you can. Either way, I’m not deleting or adding any designs to this list so you’ll just have to enjoy it as it is.
A crisp compass
In regards to design, I’ve always been a firm believer that less is more. Which is why I absolutely love this design. It’s crisp, it’s clear, and it reminds me of something that I used to draw on my notebook when I was in high school.
When I first started collecting designs for this list, I didn’t get why people found it so desirable to add full-blown arrows to their compass designs. But now, after spending some time around these beautiful creations I have to say that they have grown on me considerably.
A splash of watercolor
I’m not going to lie to you, I have absolutely no idea what is going on here from a design standpoint but it sure is fascinating. Sometimes the best designs are the ones that leave many aspects open to interpretation.
A minimalistic design
Minimalistic minds, rejoice! This super simple yet undeniably elegant approach to creating a compass tattoo is what you’ve been waiting for your entire life. In fact, it’s so random that I wasn’t even sure it was a compass tattoo until I read the artist’s description.
A simple back piece
Here we have another minimalistic design that’s located in one of my favorite spots. A faint compass can be seen mixed in with a world map but the arrow is what serves as the main focal point of the design.
A tiny ankle tat
This little design is less than an inch and a half long yet packs as much detail as any design on the list. Greem is another amazing tattooist in a deep pool of artists who use the slim needle to pack copious amounts of detail into ever-shrinking spaces.
A super clean compass
This is what you would expect a temporary tattoo to look like. I mean, the lines are so perfect that no human being could possibly have inked them, right? But all joking aside, these days I’m no longer surprised by anything. The tattoos that use to wow me five years ago and the tattoos that wow me today are very different as far as quality is concerned.
An amazing sketch style design
This sketch style design is something I could stare at all day. Super masculine in nature, this design features both a compass and a map, but unlike most of the other designs on the list, the compass is the focal of this design as opposed to the map.
A floral watercolor design
The most important thing a tattoo can do is give you confidence. Like a new hairstyle or a new pair of shoes, when you think you look good, you feel good as well. This gorgeous floral ankle piece is enough to have any girl skipping though life on cloud nine, even if it is just for a day or two.
A sketch style foot piece
BK, you sir make me want to get a compass tattoo on my foot—and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been staring at compass tattoos for the past few days. Maybe I’ve said it before, but this lowly sketch style compass is my favorite example on the list.
A compact compass tattoo
Small, yet oh-so-beautiful is turning into a reoccurring theme on the list. Getting a tattoo for the first time can be a bit scary. While many of the larger designs on this list may look appealing, tattoos aren’t for everyone, which is why I always recommend starting small.
Matching couple compasses
These matching couple tattoos are an undeniably cute concept. The whole notion of always being able to find your way back to each other is a romantic one to say the least. If you look closely, you’ll notice the couple’s initials incorporated into the design.
Pau Aldrete loves to ink compass tattoos out of her shop in Guadalajara. And as I stare at this design, I can’t help but notice that this is the first tattoo on the list that incorporates actual coordinates, which is odd considering the fact that this is a list of compass tattoos which features countless maps and other navigational themes.
A cool compass
Getting this compass tattoo is the same thing as telling the world that you love adventure. Well, maybe I should have said “travel” instead of “adventure” because come on, who doesn’t love to travel? This is a great example of a design with tons of under the radar style.
You’d be mistaken if you thought this list was all about feminine floral designs for 18-year-old girls. This design is proof that this list has a little edge to it, right? But seriously, if you’re looking for something a little more awesome than say, your average watercolor design, adding a skull to just about any design will usually get the job done.
A simple compass
If you have a tendency to forget which way is north and which way is south, having a little guidance permanently tattooed to your wrist may be useful. However, you’ll probably want to orientate it to a more user-friendly position.
A creative watercolor creation
This is another one of those designs that’s difficult to distinguish as a compass tattoo without a few helpful hints. Compasses come in all shapes and sizes, but I’ve never seen one quite so opulent before.
A gorgeous dotwork design
Frankly anything less from Hongdam and I’d just be disappointed. The artist who created this design is one of the first I followed on Instagram. He inspired me in so many different ways that I feel like I owe him in one way or another. If you’re even half as passionate about ink as I am, then Hongdam is an artist you should follow.
An ornate arrow
This decorative design is almost more arrow than it is compass. But speaking from the heart, I feel like this design fits my style more than anything else on the list. Full of detail, this is the type of design you can stare at for what seems like an eternity without ever getting sick of.
An amazing watercolor compass
Behold, everything you’ve ever wanted in a tattoo design rolled into one. Okay, sometimes I get a little too invested in the designs, but you have to admit, this is one fine-looking collection of ink. I feel like this piece should come with its own theme music or something.
A lovely floral design
After spending the better part of the last 48 hours looking through compass tattoos, I have to admit that as a design, the compass is as versatile a design as any. The feminine designs are in my opinion the most beautiful, but to each their own.
An aqua watercolor work
Watercolor designs are super popular on the internet right now. But in real life, most of you have probably never seen one. This is due to the fact that creating these designs is much more difficult than it may appear from the thousands of designs that are constantly being thrown in your face by sites like this.