From the earliest sailor tattoos, compasses have been a popular option. These nautical inkings have a deep meaning and a cool vibe. They have an understated, masculine look and suit a variety of different placements on your body, as they look great in both large and small sizes. A versatile tattoo option, compass designs can be both complex and minimalist – making it easy to find one that suits your style.
1. Star Compass Tattoo
For a classic minimalist compass design, consider a star compass. It features long, triangular points with black accents to create a subtle 3D effect. The star compass is often associated with travel and the Navy, as it was traditionally used on ocean maps. For the same reason, the design is often accented with nautical symbols like a rope. It has a sophisticated and disciplined look.
2. Nautical Compass Tattoo
A classic nautical compass tattoo connects to the sailor roots of the design. Compasses were instrumental in the long ocean voyages of the past, so a nautical compass tattoo could represent hope and faith in finding your way home. Ideal for those who prefer more mechanical or technical tattoo designs, the marine compass looks masculine and angular. Extra elements like anchors, rope, and degrees add to the nautical feel.
3. Simple Compass
Ideal for guys who want a minimalist tattoo, a simple compass combines crossed arrows with letters representing north, south, east, and west. While it is a stripped back and basic design, this tattoo is still instantly recognizable as a compass. Plus, two crossed arrows represent friends who have traveled in different directions in life yet have an everlasting bond. For that reason, it’s an excellent option for a best friend tattoo.
4. Small Compass Tattoo
Small compass tattoos are ideal for guys who prefer a minimal and straightforward design, or who are getting inked for the first time. A small compass looks excellent when placed on your wrist as you will always be able to see it. For the same reason, many men choose a compass tattoo on the back of their hand. Otherwise, a compass looks great on your foot – to symbolize travel – or behind your ear, to represent an endless imagination.
5. Anchor + Compass Tattoo
One of the classic nautical tattoo combinations is an anchor and compass. Traditionally, anchors symbolize home, safety, and hope, and were also often tattooed after successfully crossing the Atlantic Ocean. An anchor and compass tattoo represents the guiding and grounding forces in your life. For that reason, many men choose to add initials to represent family members and other loved ones.
6. Viking Compass Tattoo
The Viking compass – also known as the Nordic compass – is a protective symbol that was once used to help ancient Norsemen find their way through treacherous terrain. It features eight points, instead of the usual four, surrounded by protective runes. It is known as the Vegvisir in Icelandic, which means ‘way-finder’ or ‘signpost.’ It is ideal for men who want a unique compass tattoo that stands out, or who wish to pay tribute to their Scandinavian heritage.
7. Compass + Rose Tattoo
A compass and rose tattoo design combine two of the most popular tattoos. While some guys might opt for this tattoo for its cool look and classic appeal, others may choose it for a deeper reason. Roses – particularly red roses – represent love. When paired with a compass, this tattoo symbolizes the power of love to guide you through life. Alternatively, it could act as a tribute to a romantic partner.
8. Compass + Clock Tattoo
A compass and clock design is a deeply meaningful tattoo choice. Clocks represent the passing of time and the fragility of life. When combined with a compass, the tattoo symbolizes guidance and the journey of life. For that reason, the design is often paired with arrows, which also represent life’s journey as well as persevering to reach your goals.
9. Compass + Map Tattoo
Because both are used for navigation, a compass and a map are the ideal tattoo combination. Guys who love the outdoors, traveling, and adventure would suit this tattoo. It is also an exciting and unique option for guys who ‘make their own way’ in life and aren’t afraid to forge their path. Bold and fearless, a compass and map tattoo combines bravery with a sense of discovery and optimism.
10. Compass + Crown Tattoo
Another unique compass tattoo includes a crown. Crowns are associated with royalty and, as a result, represent authority, leadership, and power. When combined with a compass, the tattoo symbolizes taking charge of your destiny and being in control of your decisions. It’s a bold and confident tattoo option.
11. Watercolor Compass Tattoo
While compass tattoos look great in black ink, they also look fantastic in color. For an eye-catching and unique look, try a design that incorporates the watercolor technique. Rather than the traditional block of color, watercolor has a fluid, blended-out effect that looks like splashes of paint. Not only do watercolor tattoos create a bold and unique finish, but they are also generally less painful. However, they do require a skilled artist to create them.
12. Broken Compass Tattoo
A broken compass tattoo is a great choice, symbolizing a turning point in a person’s life. If you have decided to change your path and make your own decisions, you could have a broken compass tattooed. Alternatively, a broken compass tattoo could act as a tribute to a significant loved one who has passed away.
13. Geometric Compass Tattoo
Geometric details can enhance any tattoo, giving them a fresh and futuristic look. Geometric tattoos use lines, shapes, and dots to create intricate patterns that draw the eye. A geometric compass tattoo is an excellent option for guys who want a minimalist black-ink tattoo that still has an exciting and unusual vibe.
14. Heart Compass Tattoo
A heart compass tattoo is a meaningful option for your next inking. It represents love being a guiding force in your life and trusting your instincts. There are several different options when it comes to a heart compass design, from Old School to artistic. However, a masculine design that is becoming more and more popular is an anatomically accurate heart.
RELATED: 20 Heart Tattoos for Expressive Men
15. 3D Compass Tattoo
For guys who want a standout compass tattoo, a 3D compass is an ideal choice. The artist will use shading to create the illusion of weight and depth, making the tattoo seem ultra-realistic on your skin. Because 3D tattoos are more complicated to create, it’s essential to choose an artist who specializes in this art style.
16. Leg Compass Tattoo
While compass tattoos suit a variety of placements, the lower leg is a popular choice for many men. That is because the mix of circular and linear elements in a compass complements the shape of your calf. Plus, the calf provides a broad and flat surface for the tattoo artist to create your inking, making it ideal for a more complex or boldly shaded design.
17. Shoulder Compass Tattoo
As compasses are a classic tattoo design, they suit a traditional placement. The shoulder is one of the best-known and most popular placements for men. Simple to conceal or show off, a shoulder tattoo looks masculine and traditional. Plus, your shoulder is one of the least painful places to get a tattoo, so it’s an ideal choice for your first inking. A shoulder compass tattoo can also easily be turned into a half-sleeve by adding different elements, symbols, and shading.
18. Hand Compass Tattoo
While hand tattoos were once associated with gang members and prisoners, today they are popular with many different people. The back of your hand is a great place for a meaningful tattoo, as you can easily see it without needing a mirror. For that reason, a compass hand tattoo acts as a permanent reminder to stay on your path and not lose your way.
19. Elbow Compass Tattoo
For guys who want a unique inking that stands out, or cool addition to their sleeve, an elbow compass tattoo is a great choice; a star compass suits this placement best as they have a circular shape and extended points. However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that tattooing the inside or outside of the elbow can be very painful. That is because there are many nerves and bones under the skin, without much muscle or fat. For that reason, it’s not recommended for your first tattoo.
20. Chest Compass Tattoo
The chest is one of the most popular tattoo placements for men as it provides a broad, flat canvas for the tattoo artist to create the design. For guys who want a more extensive and more detailed compass tattoo, the chest is ideal. To give the compass tattoo an even deeper meaning, have it inked over the left side of your chest so that it covers your heart.
What does a compass symbolize?
Naturally, compasses are associated with journeys as they are a critical piece of equipment when exploring nature. The compass always points north and helps guide you to your destination. Given these factors, a compass tattoo can represent finding your way in life, persevering on your journey, or a love of travel and nature. When combined with other symbols, a compass tattoo can also reveal the most important thing – the 'guiding force' – in a person's life, such as love or family.
What does a compass with an arrow mean?
If you get a compass tattoo with an arrow through it, it can represent a new journey, direction, adventure, or chapter in life. The compass guides you, while the arrow aims true and propels you forward, reaching your target even over a long distance.
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