Everything You Need to Know About: Compass Tattoos


Earlier this month, we started our new series all about some of the most popular and enduring tattoo designs, looking at the light and summery feather style. Today, we’re going to look at a symbol with an incredibly rich history and a lot of meaning attached to it: the compass design.

You’ll probably already know that the history of compass tattoos is tied together with maritime culture and – as with many maritime traditions – the compass tattoo would have signified very specific things to the people who chose to get inked with them…


Protection, Luck and Guidance

For those about to embark on a lengthy sea journey, or already out drifting on the waves, a tattoo which was rumoured to offer guidance and protection would be a welcome thing indeed. Images of the compass would adorn sailors and their ships alike, serving as a reminder that even those who felt themselves to be lost at sea would eventually find their way back to sure.

The very familiar ‘North Star’ compass design, with eight star-like points, was considered the most potent symbol of a sailor’s ability to find their way out of trouble, with the guiding light of the north star itself representing a sense of direction.

In the Modern World

While there’s a chance that you might end up with a client who’s in the Navy or spends a lot of time out on their boat, these days it’s become very common for land-lubbers to opt for compass designs too.

This may be in order to honour sailors in the family tree or, more typically, because the idea of guidance and direction strikes a resonating chord. Just like the old-time seafarers, many people who sport these tats today see them as a symbol of moving forwards – only now, the troubled waters have become metaphorical.

Wear it Your Way

We love compass tattoos – not only because of their fascinating history and modern evolution, but also because of the almost unlimited design potential. Simple and sturdy, intricate and full of colour… there’s no wrong way to put together a compass design, allowing for a lot of individuality and creativity.

A ‘natural’ design with earthy colours can be great if you are trying to emphasise the tattoo’s heritage, while a more stylised approach that uses bolder colours scan take it in a more modern direction. Similarly, these tattoos can be embellished with anchors, flowers, stars, feathers… anything that gives a little more personality.

And, while Justin Bieber’s choice of the compass for one of his back tattoos may not be the biggest endorsement of the design, it does pick up a lot more credibility thanks to Bjork, whose very subtle thigh tattoo is more than we need as inspiration to go get ourselves some compass ink. 

If your interested in creating some stunning compass tattoos then make sure you have some earthy colours in the basket next time you stock up on tattoo inks. Get in touch with us today and we'll be more than happy to help you pick.