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How To Draw An Illustrated Map Part 1: How to draw a compass rose

Updated: Apr 2

Welcome to part one of my series teaching you how to draw an illustrated map. This lesson teaches you how to draw a basic compass rose, my favourite part of creating a new map. Released in tandem with a Youtube video that gently talks through the process, I'll be going into the real nitty gritty of everything you need to make a spectacular map.

For a list of what you'll need, please refer to my introductory post, here.


a simple compass rose with 8 points, 4 in teal, 4 in orange, and a central drawing of a flower in black and white
A simple compass rose I drew over on my YouTube channel


  1. Always draw each new part on a new layer, this will help you out a lot if you make a mistake, as you can just delete or erase part of that one layer, and not the whole thing.

  2. To draw a straight line, draw the line and hold it, do not take the pencil of the screen, ProCreate will automatically make it straight.


Step 1: Create a new project and bring up the guide lines.

In your gallery, select the plus sign in the top left corner, then choose the size you want your project to be. If I'm not sure, you can start with a standard A4 sheet: 210x297mm. You will also need it to be 300dpi (that's the resolution). To change this, go to the spanner at the top of your new project, click canvas, then crop & resize, then settings. The figure next to the DPI subheading can now be changed to 300. This will ensure that if you want to print something, it has the right resolution. Also, if you do want to print your compass rose, you will need to change the colour to CMYK at the beginning of the project. If you're happy with it just being online, then you can leave it as RGB.

To bring up the grid lines, go to the spanner again, then canvas, and toggle the drawing guide on.

Step 2: You will need a circle.

On procreate I do this by drawing a rough circle on a new layer. The key here, is: when you stop drawing do not lift the pencil from the page, instead hold it there, and the shape will change automatically into an ellipse. When that happens, there are two options at the top of the screen, where is says 'ellipse' and 'circle'. Select 'circle' and procreate will transform the shape into a perfect circle.

Step 3: Line up the circle with the grid lines

When you click on your circle layer, a boundary box will appear around the circle. At the top there is a green blob, and at the bottom there is a yellow one. you need to line these up with a vertical line. Then, you need to line the two central side dots up with a horizontal line. Finally, you need to make sure the outermost edges of the circle sit on a line, and don't bisect one of the grid squares.

The screen of an ipad is shown. On the screen is a blank sheet of paper with grid lines over it. Over that, Nicola has drawn a circle. Red lines and notes detail the steps to draw a compass rose
Steps 1 and 2: To draw a compass rose in procreate, follow these steps

Step 4: Draw in your guide lines

The aim here is to get a cross running through the centre of the circle. Make a new layer, then draw a line all the way through the centre of the circle along the vertical line. Then draw a line all the way through the centre on the horizontal line. (That's why you lined the circle up neatly earlier on!) Make sure these lines are as accurate as you can make them.

Now you need another cross running diagonally through the centre. Duplicate the layer with your first cross on. Then, while on the duplicated layer, click the arrow symbol in the top left hand corner. At the bottom will be an option to rotate your new duplicated layer 45 degrees. Click on that and voila, you have your additional diagonal cross.

Step 4: Draw in a central circle

Create a new layer and draw another circle on it. This one should be smaller than the outside one, about a quarter to half of the size should do it. Line this up in the centre of your larger circle. The grid lines will help you again.

You can now turn off your grid lines.

One large circle with a smaller circle within it, are bisected by one horizontal line, one vertical line, and two diagonal lines at 45 degree angles, showing the framework of a compass rose
The main framework of a compass rose

Step 5: Draw in the 4 cardinal points of your compass rose

Make a new layer. You might also want to use a different colour for this at first, so it doesn't get confusing. Starting at the top of your compass rose, at the point where the vertical line meets the circle, draw a straight, diagonal line down towards the centre circle. You want to stop where the centre circle meets the line of the diagonal cross. Repeat this until you have drawn in all 8 lines that you need.

You can now rub out the excess lines if you like. This will be a little clearer as you continue to draw. The excess lines are: the lines in the smaller central circle, and any lines around the outside of the larger boundary circle.

The framework of a compass rose with the 4 cardinal points drawn in red
You're getting there: the main points of the compass rose are done and excess lines removed

Step 6: Draw in NE, SE, SW and NW.

Create a new layer. Then, using the same principle as we used for the four cardinal points, draw in the lesser points, shown below in green.

You can then rub out the excess lines again. The excess lines are: the lines that bisect the main four cardinal points. See the second image below for what you should be left with.

Step 7: Add a bit of shading

Now you have the basic shape of the compass rose, you can add some shading. One of the more traditional ways of shading a compass rose, that you will find on a lot of antique maps, is simply to draw diagonal lines that run all the way down one side of each compass rose point. This is seen below in yellow.

A compass rose with 8 points has been drawn, the cardinal points in red, the lesser points in green, and some yellow shading has been applied to one half of each of the main cardinal points
The four lesser points have been added (green) and some shading applied (yellow)

If you want to give your compass rose a more hand drawn effect, then I suggest drawing the diagonal shader lines in freehand. I prefer all of my maps to look hand drawn, so I will often freehand things, rather than leaving procreate to automatically adjust it, or duplicating parts of the compass rose, but if you're going for a more polished look, then by all means, let procreate adjust.

Step 8: Decorate the centre of your compass rose

When I'm making my maps, I like to make sure the centre of the compass rose is something that is important to the map; perhaps it is from the time period, like the Jacobean rose, or perhaps a personal map might have the family coat of arms in it. But for the purposes of instruction, I drew a flower here:

The centre of the colourful compass rose has a flower drawn in it. It looks a bit rough and squiggly.
Decorate the centre of your compass rose . . . with anything you like!

What would you like to draw? It can be anything you like! A coat of arms, a flower, a duck . . . anything!

Step 9: Finally, draw in the letters representing your cardinal points

I've kept it simple here, but let your imagination run wild. You can letter this any way you want to. You can use the text available on Procreate, or you can create your own letters. Have a look at other artists for inspiration. Helen Cann is a great artist to look at, and if you want to draw a compass rose by hand rather than digitally, I highly recommend you look at her book: Hand-Drawn Maps, which details the process from start to finish.

A colourful compass rose with a flower in the centre has been lettered with calligraphy to show the four cardinal points: north, south, east and west
The final compass rose


  1. Use a compass and a pencil to draw a circle

  2. Draw a vertical and horizontal line through the centre point, so it looks like a cross laid over your circle

  3. If you want an eight point compass, then use a protractor to work out a 45 degree angle between the four points of the cross. Dot where the 45 degree angle is, and then join a line from the dot to the centre with a ruler.

  4. Follow the instructions above from here

I hope this helps you to draw your own compass rose, and take one more step towards drawing your own illustrated map. If you want to look at some inspiration, I've collected a few compass roses on my Pinterest board, here.

Feel free to ask questions below and to check out the next post in the series, head here.

As always, thanks for reading,


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