Create a vector compass

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You’ll need to have a vector editing software like Inkscape or Adobe Ilustrator. Since I don’t have Illustrator, I’ll be showing you this tutorial in Inkscape because Inkscape is free!

1) Open up Inkscape and create a new document.

2) Create a small circle. Right click -> Fill and stroke. Make sure that fill color is white, and the stroke color is black. Go to stroke style and set the width to 2.5px.

3) Now select Stars and Polygon tool. At the change toolbar make sure you have the following parameters (Click to expand):
Change toolbar

The spoke ratio is a measure of how spikey the spoke needs to be. 0.160 is an ideal for the compass needle.

3) Create the star, making sure that CTRL is pressed, so that any rotation is based on 15 degree increments.


4) Now that the star has been created, it needs to be aligned with the circle. Select both. Press Shift + CTRL + A for Align and Distribute. Select Relative to -> Page and click on Align to -> Centre on Vertical Axis and click on -> Centre on horizontal axis. Both objects should be aligned with the center of the page now.


5)Now select the star and duplicate it using CTRL + D. Now using now press < to reduce the size. This is for the background set of needles. Reduce it until you are satisfied with the size. Now you need to rotate it while pressing CTRL until the background needles are perpendicular with the main needles. Now press End to send this to the back. You should have something like this:


6) Duplicate the original star and put this duplicate into a new layer, and scale down the duplicate until it looks something like this: step-6.png

7) Now hide the old layer.

8)We will now edit the nodes of the star. So we will need to convert the object to a path. Do this by Shift + CTRL + C.

9) Press F2 to edit path by nodes. Select the 4 bottom end points of the star and click Break Path at Selected nodes.


10) Now select the base vertices of a triangle and click Join selected endpoints with a new segment. Keep doing this until every triangle is complete as follows: You may need to break each triangle apart and rejoin them again later so that its vertices do not interfere while you are selecting new nodes. You should have something like this now:


11) Now select two base vertices and click Insert Nodes between Segments. Repeat this for each triangle. Each base segment is now has a new centre node like this image:


12) Now delete a single base corner node from each triangle until you get something like this:


13) Make the previous layer visible again,move the new layer under the old layer, and this time move and rotate each triangles of the new layer until you end up with this:


14) Create 2 big circles, and adjust the stroke settings of the outer circle like this:


15) Now create another circle, and a small rectangle:


16) Ok. There are actually two different methods to this. Its your choice, go and experiment with both. The effect I am trying to get is a circular array of the rectangle. You can either use the Clone tool or Pattern along Path. The clone tool is demonstrated here (thanks to scribbleed for the link) ->

Here’s what I did :

Select the rectangle and convert it to path. Now bring the rectangle to the top. I’ll show you why in a moment.

17) Now select the circle and the rectangle and go to effects->Generate From Path-> Pattern along path

18) Use the following settings (You may need to change the space between copies according to the size of your circle):


19) As you can see, the top most rectangle is neccessary for the Pattern along Path script to work as desired. You must have ended up with something like this:


From here onwards, you can choose color combinations that you like, and add the NSEW like my compass. You can always look at my compass for inspiration!

Final product

Hope you have enjoyed reading my tutorial! This is my first, and hopefully I have made the instructions very clear. If not, please leave in your comments and I will be happy to assist you. I’ve experimented with Inkscape many times and have created tonnes of artwork. If you have a specific tutorial in mind, please let me know.

New! – Download the SVG from here:

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31 comments so far

  1. aTarom on

    Thanks for sharing

  2. scribbleed on

    Great tutorial. But wouldn’t it be easier to do everything ‘straight up’, then rotate it all at the end?
    Also, instead of Pattern along Path, you can also use Clone Tiles and get exact angle placement. See

  3. ipurush on

    Hi scribbleed,

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Yes it can also be done, and I suppose that making a compass requires acurracy, so using clones is much better suited for it.

  4. Robert on

    You have a small mistake.

    “Select the rectangle and convert it to path. Now …”
    “Select the circle and convert it to path. Now …”

  5. ipurush on

    Hi Robert,

    No just the rectangle should be converted to path. Otherwise the Pattern Along Path works wierdly

  6. kristina on

    Ohh, i’ts very hard to work. I don’t understand this. Complicated. Please remake this tutoriel in french because i’m not great in english and I don’t understand. Thank for you understending.
    The result is very beautiful.

  7. ipurush on

    Salut Kristina,

    Je suis si désolé qu’il ait été difficile de comprendre pour toi. J’essayerai de le faire en français, mais je ne suis pas un orateur français indigène. Peut-être vous pouvez me dire quelles pièces vous ne pourriez pas comprendre ?

  8. Juha on


    Some feedback on the tutorial.

    I was able to complete it with a result very similar to what was shown. They major obstacle was step #12 — this part I found Inkscape behaving very unintuitively either because I don’t understand what Inkscape is attempting to do or it just fails on usability in this part. The tutorial is vague on how to complete this point as well which didn’t help — instead causing quite a bit of frustration towards Inkscape.

    Already mentioned elsewhere is that there’s quite a bit of assumed knowledge in this tutorial as well, so maybe not suitable for complete newbies (see the previous point about rather high frustration levels). For someone who’s dabbled with Inkscape a bit before and/or is familiar with other similar tools the learning curve is manageable.

    Hope that helps — while the two points above are critical I’d still like to thank you for taking the effort of writing it down, it looks great and did increase my knowledge of the product. Thanks!

  9. ipurush on

    Hi Juha.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    About your problem, can you please explain how exactly Inkscape responded when you tried to do step 12? or if you’ve received an error message, can you please email me a screenshot: ishwar{dot}purushotham{at}gmail{dot}com
    I will try to work out what went wrong.

    Basically, in step 11, what I did was split the base line in half. So when one tries to delete the corner base node, an half triangle is left. Understand?

    I am under the belief that Inkscape is the easiest graphics program to learn? GIMP is hard to learn for me. I sort of learnt my way around Inkscape in 2 hours, and wrote this tut 2 hours later, and wrote the hearts tut a day later:

  10. Juha on


    It wasn’t that Inkscape gave an error message, I just find the user interface does not do a good job in conveying the node information when working with paths — which nodes are still connected and to where, where are the vertices being formed and most importantly, which nodes are the end points.

    Given that lack of visual feedback I found it very difficult to create the result of step 12. With each delete the lines between the nodes would be altered by Inkscape so that the original star shape was deformed (in an undesired way) — sometimes the node locations themselves were moved after a delete which was very baffling! Segments between more than two selected nodes getting deleted, and so on.

    So it was just random click and try, trying to break nodes apart until finally the result would become what was expected. That was the very frustrating part.

    There’s a room for improvement there for the product to use different colors and/or node shapes to differentiate types of nodes visually in the editor. Would be nice to be able to see which nodes are still connected as well when breaking a shape into path (a select that highlights the path from one endpoint to another).

    Can’t comment on Gimp, as I’ve never tried it although have heard it has a steep learning curve as well.

    The valentine stuff looks good as well. Good job.

  11. ipurush on

    Hi Juha,

    Yes, in fact I sort of had the same problem you were talking about. The thing is, currently Inkscape only shows the selected node point(s). The selected nodes are a bit bigger and are yellow, in contrast with the non selected points which are blue.

    What I did after seperating each triangle from the central figure was to move it to a new layer lock -the layer, so that its nodes would not interfere with the rest of the figure I am working with.

    So as you have said, Inkscape can certainly improve a lot. But the best thing is that its free! Maybe you can suggest this as a new feature in its future versions?

    Thanks, and if you require any specific tutorials, let me know!



  13. Jude on

    Thanks for posting this. It’s good to see something so detailed. I found the pattern along path part particularly interesting – I think I would have done it the hard way so this was really useful!

  14. Roland Tumble on

    I find that the best way to delete nodes in Inkscape is to select the node-editing tool and then Ctrl-Alt -click the node I want gone. This eliminates the potential for selecting a segment to when I thought I’d only selected a single node.

  15. Dopski on

    I find it too frustrating creating segment from nodes. There is no visual clues as to what node I am selecting. It is as if I am working by chance to select the nodes I want to edit! Very high frustration for me!

  16. JohnL on

    A shortcut to separating the points of the star is to place either a circle or a polygon (same number of sides as the star) over the star, then do a PATH -> DIFFERENCE (Ctrl + -). This chops a hole in the star, and (if you’ve made the hole big enough) makes point editing much easier.

    I use this all the time, as Inkscape does not yet have a knife tool to cut paths into precise pieces…still have to add a point, then split the path at the point.

    Incidentally, I LOVE Inkscape…it is my favorite open source program of all — and I am by no means an artist.

  17. mirex on

    Thanks for tutorial. This was a first time I had Inkscape open, and still I was able to achieve result similair to yours.

    I had only some small problems with steps 10-11-12 and 17 ( maybe you could explain how do those tools work in more detail ) but I was able to work it out after some time.

  18. siger on


    This tutorial is very interesting and useful.

    I have problems for the 12 th stage. Could you explain it more in details ? Thank You.


  19. DrJuano on

    I followed the instructions, but there were lot of points that I had to “guess” because the explanations wasn’t clear. The clone pattern tool isn’t very easy to use. I couldn’t solve how to put that rectangle around the circle.

  20. Falade on

    Ya at the 12th stage it took me forever to get past that. I dnt even remember what I did.

    This is definitely not for beginners because it will just discourage them. But you should give us the instructions on how to create the end version with the dots and letters.

  21. Falade on

    Made this with it

    Along with gimp

  22. YN on

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve just recently downloaded Inkweaver, so I’m totally new to this.

    It’s a very concise and easy to follow procedure, but I have problems with Step #5 (embarrasing, I know.) What keys do I have to press to send the object (the small star) to the back?

    Thanks again!

  23. […] and have been trying a small handful of tutorials I’ve found online. In the middle of a compass-making tutorial, while trying to use “Path to Pattern Effect”, I ran into the following wall: The […]

  24. phil shapiro on

    I’d love to see some tutorials for young children (ages 5 to 8) to get into using Inkscape. What pretty drawings could they make that didn’t require many steps?

  25. isthur on

    trim’s Mr.X
    I am Indonesia
    bring me another tutorial

  26. type on

    thanks for sharing amigo very nice beginner tutorial

  27. Jason on

    Step 12 is completely confusing and seems to leave out important instructions.

  28. Viktor on

    About steps 16-18: before I learned about tiled clones, I used something of a “brute-force approach”. Starting with one object (here, the rectangle), I moved it’s rotation center outside (here it would be the centerpoint of our compass). Duplicate (Ctrl+D), open the Transform dialog (Ctrl+Shift+M), Rotate tab, set angle as desired, apply. Repeat the Duplicate and Apply rotation steps until you’ve come full circle, select all your rectangles and combine them into one object (Ctrl+K). It’s less elegant than the two approaches mentioned here, but might be easier to follow for beginners like myself…

  29. Jesse on

    The selected vertices are yellow. If you are having problems selecting just one vertex, then click somewhere off of the path you want to edit a few times, then select the path, then the node you want to edit (and if desired, other nodes by shift+click). Then you are ready to hit the delete key, or right click+delete, whatever your method may be.

    I understand the confusion, I remember deleting multiple nodes by accident and always having to ctrl+z, so just remember to click off of the path in space that is not currently being used several times before selecting nodes. This will deselect any preselected nodes. I hope this helps. Have fun using inkscape!

  30. on

    Exactly where did you pick up the suggestions to publish ““Create a vector compass
    Hall of Art”? Thank you -Claudette

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