For any man, the thought of navigating life be a scary thought. With every step we make there is always the possibly of taking a wrong turn or path. Luckily, a compass whether physical or moral, can guide us safely along our journey.
Back in 3000 BCE, the constellation Draco held the Thuban star. For men of this time period, it acted as a faint guiding light with only one-fifth the brightness of Polaris.
By 27800 CE, the Polaris, which rested some 434 light years away, would claim the title as the North Star, or Pole Star. Yet, you might be surprised to know that at the present moment there is no South Star that can measure up to the Polaris.
For the compass itself, it wouldn’t appear until the Chinese Han Dynasty in 206 BC. When it first surfaced, it was used for everything but navigation, like fortune-telling and geomancy!
However, within time the compass would eventually become what it is today, an important directional guide, and one of the 50+ best tattoo ideas.
Speaking of today, the meaning behind compass rose tattoos is quite straightforward. For the traveler, it is a symbol of adventure or a past voyage. For other men it symbolizes a steady focus on the future and a reminder to stay on the right path.
Regardless of what direction you take, you’ll enjoy these top 70 best compass tattoo designs for men. Perhaps in a sense, I’ll be able to guide you on a journey of inspiration and ideas.
This compass tattoo features a nice balance of black and shadow to represent the ocean and negative space signifying the continents. The artist has cleverly placed the compass inside the ocean to avoid a large swathe of black ink.
This compass tattoo has been applied with a mix of traditional styles. The piece utilizes Japanese Irezumi influences in the cloud and wave work, however the partially hidden compass has been etched with an understanding of traditional American tattoo concepts.The piece, while well-developed may have benefited from a fully viewed compass image.
This compass tattoo is a beautifully executed old school classic. The compass is rendered with consummate skill and enhanced by the perfect contrast between gold and black inks. The red rose, etched with a wide gauge needle, is an added traditional touch that signifies love left behind.
A great example of expert depth and detail. The compass reminds of those navigational tools found in the halls of power (or a modern casino roulette wheel). The artist has done a commendable job of linking the subject’s previous work in with this new piece by smart usage of the map lines and shading.
Another beautifully crisp compass using expert color work to contrast between gold and black. The key to this body art lies in the artist’s ability to implement detail in the black work cross hatches, time signatures, and subtle shading of the compass face.
This compass tattoo is a beautifully rendered, almost 3D piece of artwork featuring expert shading techniques to make it almost pop off the skin. The way the compass draws away from the technically exceptional background is a credit to the artist’s use of black line and gray shading.
Now, this is a truly exceptional piece of body art. The artist’s ability to create depth and detail in the compass and Spanish coins is a demonstration of real talent, while the crisscrossing map lines, marking, and shading that make up the backdrop give it tremendous balance. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a snapshot from the Captain’s desk of a clipper ship off the coast of Costa Rica.
The detail used in this black and gray chest/arm tattoo to create the various spines of the compass is top notch. The artist has gone all out to make the design as realistic as possible and show off the west of the Canadian coastline with exemplary shading technique. The artist also throws in a nicely etched dove to show off their skills at tattooing realistic animals.
This compass tattoo is a brilliantly drawn example of gray scale tattooing. The images are subtle and well developed, however the cleverly drawn gray ink makes the piece seem like a beautifully drawn sketch. The artwork also applies some good, solid negative space tattooing to help enhance the overall image.
The combination of clock and compass makes this a tidy sleeve tattoo. The artist has effectively created a stone look by utilizing a strong gray ink with a black line cracking technique, while also including other previous works to give the artwork an arthouse abstract vibe.
This compass tattoo is an interesting contrast of black and gray shading the background with a nicely executed overlay compass. By using slightly odd colors, particularly the minty fresh green, the compass becomes an almost new wave style tattoo. Again, the line work of the map’s graph and utilization of geographical text creates a nice degree of background detail you don’t find other kinds of tattoos.
Such a finely detailed compass built into a brilliant massive arm sleeve. The artist uses almost unprecedented levels of detail to create the map and navigational piece and doesn’t miss anything. Not only is the compass itself a masterclass in line and clarity, the artwork even gives a mirror-like sheen to the steel cover and functional white inked map border. Not going to lie, the young girl with the bangle and pistol below the compass is also an interesting image worth investigating.
This skull and compass tattoo looks well done on first glance, however once you focus on the total work it’s noticeably missing clarity in key technical elements. The scale of the image is off and looks to have been hand drawn by the artist on application instead of stencilled. Only the very best artists attempt to do this on a tattoo of this style. The gears making the central compass image are a sloppy – especially given that they’re the type of implement needing absolute accuracy to function properly.
The amount of quality line and shade work in this tattoo is comprehensive. The magnifying glass is a cool feature of the tattoo which allows the artist to create a patch of space different from the others due to the close-up. Another wicked aspect of the tattoo is the detailed folds within the rose – it combines clever black line work with small yet noticeably tight shadow work. This a premier tattoo!
This is a cracking mix of black and gray realism in the featured compass tattoo supported by vivid water color. It’s a unique and engaging piece which doesn’t try to overdo the color gamble but uses the different hues as a simple background for some nice trickery within the use of negative space for the main image.
The standout aspect of this half sleeve is the detail of the coils, knots, and loops of the rope supporting the main compass image. It creates a pattern different to many others found in this style of tattoo well supported by brief flicks of white inked highlights.
It would be almost impossible to find a black and gray tattoo featuring this degree of skill in application across the entire sleeve. The compass tattoo at the wrist is impressive, small yet tremendously detailed and shaded with expert care. The linework, shading, and background map links beautifully to the exquisite rose, before the realism of the galleon blows your doors off. This looks more like a piece of showstopping art you’d find inside a maritime museum than on the skin of a man’s arm.
Another bad ass bit or rope work realism, the artist has created a fine chest piece by utilizing the shape of tattoo and muscle to make an additional rippling effect in the compass and shading.
This is a more successful partially hidden compass tattoo. It deftly creating the right sense of scale and shape by employing the banner, while the directional text and background map making are hugely expressive pieces of the artwork. Using the thin, sharp, black line work to create wood grain on the compass is an excellent highlight.
The coolest part of this exceptionally skilful nautical sleeve are the scores of lines drawn with precision out from near the subject’s elbow. They’re done with painstaking accuracy (spend some time following each line) but also match up well the graph like contours of the map.
A masterful full chest tattoo with the compass featured on the left breast. This artwork is spot on in the use of dark gray shading, but also does enough with the total image to work well with the subject’s previous ink.
The black line detail meshed with thick fuzzy black shadow looks brilliant – sort of like the tattoo expression of a quintessential dark and stormy night. The rest of the compass tattoo and rose is solid, particularly the lighter, more tightly focused magnified portion, but the backing detail and coloring improves the look across the entire piece.
Don’t get me wrong, this nautical sleeve is excellent quality craftsmanship, however the compass tattoo could actually be too well detailed. There’s so many pinpoint facets of the image in black and gray, but the artist may have gotten a more eye-catching effect with a simpler representation.
Another beautiful half sleeve the artist alleviates the weight of the black ink shading and line work with expert use of white ink to highlight a variety of small details, such as the N.S, the nib of the fountain pen, and edge of the scroll’s binding for example.
Apologies, it took a few moments to even spot the compass tattoo amongst all the other awesomeness. This a bad ass sleeve. The life like bronze finish of the diving helmet, expertly etched Octopus suckers, and effortlessly detailed windswept ship sails are just two indicators of this artwork’s expert quality.
This piece combines sketch technique with elements of bio-mechanical to create a sick chest tattoo. Absolutely love the use of colors here, which give the compass itself a solidity and heft while making the ripped flash more abstract in contrast.
This piece could be magical, however the artist doesn’t quite have the skill to pull off its exceptional idea. The colors are cool but all of the shapes are out of scale, with the moon in particular being a poor mix of circle and crescent.
This is bad ass black work. The circular sweep of black line and shadow create a pretty but effective tattoo trumped by wild skeleton ink. It’s a real showstopper where the artist has just gone to town maximizing the different black tattoo techniques of shading and line in creating a custom classic.
Fuzzy black shading works nicely for this nicely drawn compass tattoo. The use of a single red arrow is a nice, minimalist touch of class, and works well further up the arm with the rose in leaves.
The background map for this piece could be improved with better line work, some more contrast in shading, and some added details like rock formations or current directions. The compass is a great piece of ink though, the artist has achieved an excellent steel look in the gray shadow work.
Ooh, now this is unique and totally killer. Sharp, crisp line work and a small amount of negative space effects contrasted beautifully by flawless and vivid water color. This is an incredibly difficult tattoo to achieve greatness, but the result really speaks for itself.
Negative space works well here. The compass is solid, if unspectacular, but the smoky tendril effects created by working with unblemished skin give the tattoo a more exciting and filled out look.
Why do people get a compass tattoo?
Traditionally, compass tattoos were inked by sailors looking for symbols of protection and guidance while on ocean voyages. They also signified a yearning for home while away and provided a means to signify connection to what they had left behind.
What does the compass and clock tattoo mean?
The compass and clock tattoo are used in combination to provide symbols of that time (clock) and direction (compass). They’re a reminder that time in your life is limited so you need to explore in every direction possible until that time runs out.
What does a rose compass tattoo mean?
The rose and compass tattoos symbolize love and a devotion to home. If you’re away from shore and loved ones, the tattoo represents your situation and helps drive your return to home port.
How much would a compass tattoo cost?
Compass tattoos run the gamut, from cheap minimalist designs through expensive, fully realized pieces that cost thousands of dollars.
The most inexpensive compass tattoos can be as cheap as the $50-80 store minimum pricing, however the average cost per hour is usually in the $150-$200 range.
Top line, in demand artists charge anywhere from $350 – $500 per hour of work. They often feature long wait times.
Complex compass artwork in sleeve design or as stand-alone work can run anywhere from $1000-$3000 in total.
Remember that tipping is expected, with 15-20% of the total cost the usual accepted rate. It’s also highly recommended you clarify any pricing issues with your artist and have a clear understanding of the cost prior to commencing your tattoo.