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How To Draw An Illustrated Map Part 3: Formatting the compass rose

Updated: Jan 23

Join me as I delve even deeper into teaching you how to draw your own illustrated map. Part three concerns the compass rose and the different options you can use for laying it out. Spoiler alert: compass roses don't always have to be round.

To watch the YouTube video accompanying this blog, head here.

To read part 2, head here.

To read part 4, head here.


a page of 7 compass roses. One is square and drawn in black and white, two are round and drawn in Christmassy colours; they look identical but have different borders. One is very large with many points and features line work in the gaps. One is hexagonal and looks a little bit like a medal. One is formed of negative space with shading around the outside, and one is just a little blue compass rose with 4 points.
Compass Rose Inspiration

Top tip 1: Really, as long as you have the points of the compass rose pointing in the correct directions, you can make the compass rose any shape that you want.

So, I'd recommend starting with creating the basic shape, to make sure you have the points right, and then editing it.


To create this, I drew my basic compass rose, and then drew a line going between all of the four lesser compass rose points. This gave me the shape of the square. I then erased the outer circle, which was the original border. I could have drawn a bigger square, but I really liked how the cardinal points fell outside of that boundary.

A compass rose with 8 points that is square. It features shading to form the shape.
You could draw a square compass rose

I then shaded the square, and removed the extra lines I'd drawn so that only the points had a defined boundary.


I wanted to show you these ones, so you could see what happens when you play with the border. I drew the basic shape of the compass rose first. Then this time, instead of taking the border away, I drew in an extra border, which threaded in and out of the compass rose points. In one example, I took the outer border away, and in the other I kept it, and also left in some extra lines.

Two almost identical green, red and gold compass roses are shown. One with a border that weaves in and out of the points, one with this and an outer border also
You could play with bringing the borders in towards the centre, or removing them entirely


Personally, I love adding in the extra points, and I think they can look really cool - like a sunburst. For this one, I drew the basic compass rose, then added in a further 8 points. I divided the gaps between the original compass rose points in half with a line, then drew the points around these lines.

A large compass rose with 16 points. Horizontal line work is featured in all of the gaps and it is drawn in black and white. It looks a little mesmerising.
How many points do you want on your compass rose?


This one looked like a spaceship; I thought it would go excellently in a sci fi novel. I wanted to show again that you can try all sorts of different shapes. I started with the basic compass rose again, and drew the shape I wanted around it, then erased the lines I didn't need.

A hexagonal compass rose drawn in black and white. The line work makes it look a bit like a medal.
Think of the shape and feel you want your map to have. This compass rose is hexagonal and feels a little sci-fi

For this one, I also played with the lengths of the compass rose points, making the cardinal ones bigger. I think this made it look like a badge or a medal.

Top Tip 2: I encourage you always to think of the overall feel you want for your map. This will change the way you design your compass rose. If you want it to feel traditional, then you need to go round, if you want it futuristic, then perhaps the hexgon is for you.


This compass rose features the points created using negative space, where the gaps are shaded and there are no borders
A compass rose that uses negative space

Once again, I drew the basic compass rose, then shaded the spaces and erased the lines. This left the negative space which formed the points of the compass rose. It has a slightly more whimsical feel and you could play with this so much. You could fill the shaded areas with flowers or patterns, instead of shading it. Will adding more points help or hinder? Colour could really make this one pop. It's totally up to you.


Remember, you don't always have to make something fancy. This one below is just a simple, four point compass rose, with the border brought inwards, but it can be just as effective in the right map. Just go with your gut, do what you think is best.

A small and simple four point compass rose in turquoise with a gold centre
Sometimes simple is better. A little, simple compass rose.

I hope this gets you one step further on your journey towards drawing your own, fabulous illustrated map.

To watch the YouTube video accompanying this blog, head here.

To read part 2, head here.

To read part 4, head here.

As always, thanks for reading!


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