Best Drafting Compass for Drawing

Be it your geometry class or drawing board, a circle or an arc is the most common shape you will draw. And that needs a decent compass with precision to draw perfect circles every time.

Some compasses are pretty basic and cost just a few bucks, while others are quite fancy and can cost more than a hundred bucks. We went over some of the most functional compasses and analyzed them in terms of build quality, precision, locking mechanism, etc.

In our opinion, Mr. Pen Professional Drawing compass is the best compass for drawing. It has a metal build that will last for a long. Along with easy adjustments, the compass should be your ultimate choice for precision drawing.

Let’s get into more detail and explore several other compasses as well.

Editor’s Pick: Compass for Drawing

Types of Drawing Compass

Though all compasses can draw circles, there are a few types depending on their design and intent of use. We will go over four main types of drawing compass in brief.

Beam Compass

Beam compasses are usually larger than any other type. So, they are very useful in larger drawings. Both the legs of the compass are vertically fitted to a straight horizontal beam, which is often a ruler.

With this compass, you can precisely adjust the distance between two legs and draw bigger circles.

Bow Compass

Bow compass is very common in technical drawing and geometry. The legs of this compass are attached by a bow-shaped spring that works as the pivoting point. You can adjust the distance of the legs by turning the center wheel.

Scribe Compass

A scribe compass is usually nothing but a bow compass without lead. Instead, needles are attached to both legs of the compass. Woodworkers mostly use this compass to scribe on wood instead of drawing.

Proportional Compass

A proportional compass has a scissor-like design where both the legs are screwed in the middle. This screw works as the pivot point. You can measure ratios with this type of compass.

Buying Guide of The Best Compass For Drawing

We have taken a closer look at some of the best compasses available out there for professional-grade drawing. Let’s introduce you to their features, pros, and cons.

1. Mr. Pen Professional Drawing Compass

We just loved the simplicity and precision of the best compass for drawing. It can expand up to four inches, so you can easily draw large circles. To fight accidental leg movement, the most common issue in compasses, this compass has a spring bow head with a center wheel.


You can expand or contract the legs of the compass by rotating the wheel on its axis. No matter how firmly you press them while drawing, the legs will be in place.


The compass is made with stainless steel and has nickel plating on it. So, it will be very durable.

Extra Lead And Needles

In case you break the lead of the compass amid drawing, don’t worry. It comes with ten additional lead refills so that you can replace them in seconds. Two extra needles are also provided.

Easy Adjustment

Due to the spring-loaded head, the legs of the compass can be adjusted easily between your drawing. You will need just one hand to fine-tune the position.


  • Large expansion range up to four inches
  • Metal build is very durable and scratch-resistant
  • Easy adjustability and high stability for greater precision
  • Extra leads and needles included


  • Compass head is too narrow

2. Helix Universal Locking Compass And Protractor Set

This compass comes in an innovative design for the ultimate convenience and precision. You even get a protractor in the set, which might come in handy.

Measuring Arm

The measuring arm is extremely useful while precision drawing. It is marked in two different units so that you know how much the leg moves.

Locking Mechanism

Once the legs are spread enough, you can simply twist the knob on the center to lock the legs. They will stay in place as you draw. It results in a more precise and cleaner drawing every time.

Universal Holder

This professional drafting compass has a universal holder for pretty much everything. You can use pencils, pens, or even markers according to your needs. Don’t be limited to just pencil leads for your professional drawings.


The compass legs expand within a wide range, up to 6 inches. So, you can draw large circles easily. And when you close the legs, the compass tip retracts automatically.


  • Short leg design with wide expansion
  • Measuring arm for precision drawing
  • Twist lock for securing legs
  • Universal holder to use with everything
  • Automatically retractable tip


  • Built with plastic, so not very durable

3. Westcott 14558-002 Compass And Protractor Set

Looking for the right compass for drawing circles? This compass from Westcott can expand up to 6.5 inches and draw large circles. The colorful design of the compass will attract kids as well as adults.

Measuring Arm

You get a measuring arm marked in two units. Though the arm is about 6 inches long, you can actually spread the legs more than that. This measuring arm will come in handy if you need extra precision while drawing.

High Grip Head

The head of this measuring compass has a better grip than most others available commonly. You can hold the head with just two fingers, and the legs will stay stable in their position. Unfortunately, there is no locking mechanism on this compass.

Pencil Holder

There is a pencil holder that can be adjusted for various pencils. But we fear you can’t use pencils or pens that are too thick.


A plastic protractor also comes with the set, which has a 180-degree measurement on the protractor and a 6-inch marking on the straight side.


  • Highly expandable legs with measuring arm
  • Textured head for better grip
  • Pencil holder for using different pencils and pens
  • Colorful and attractive design


  • No locking mechanism

4. Offidea Professional Woodworking Compass

This is arguably the best drawing compass for professional woodworking. With its sturdy build and long metal legs, you can draw circles as big as 30 inches in diameter.

Carbon Steel Build

The compass is made with high carbon steel, so it is incredibly strong. There is a riveted joint at the top, which works as the center of the legs.

Locking Mechanism

The lockable wing of the compass extends on one side with a knurled knob on it. So, you can twist the knob to lock the legs in place for precision drawing.

Pencil Holder And Scriber

You can use different pencils in the pencil holder of the compass. Thicker pencils or pens might not fit the holder. Alongside, there is a built-in scriber that is very useful when scribing wood or metal.

High Adjustability

You can draw circles between half an inch and 30 inches with this compass. Due to its high adjustability, it can be used in versatile drawing projects.


  • Metal build is very sturdy and durable
  • Long legs with a wide range of expansion for bigger circles
  • Built-in scribes for woodworking
  • Locking mechanism ensures high precision


  • No compass head for grip

5. Steadtler Metal Compass Set

No other circle compasses provide this much functionality. It’s just not a compass; it’s also a scriber in disguise. The design is very professional, along with versatile adjustments which make it the best drafting compass. And the compass can draw circles of approximately 13.77 inches in diameter.

Metal Build

The compass is made of stainless steel. There is a center wheel to adjust the spread of the legs and lock them in place.


You can adjust everything from leg width, pencil holder, scriber, needles, etc. It has three knobs to adjust the functions. An extra pencil holder comes with the package to replace the scriber leg.

Extra Needles And Leads

You get a needle and lead holder to secure all your needles and leads. When needed, leads or needles can be interchanged using the knobs.

Pencil Holder

The pencil holder provided with the set is big enough to handle thicker pencils or pens.


  • Sturdy metal build with a high precision setting
  • Locking mechanism with center wheel
  • Highly adjustable legs with pencil holder and needles
  • Hinged legs for more convenience


  • Circle diameter isn’t so big

Best Drawing Compass Buying Guide

Best Compass for Drawing

Though a compass is a very small tool, you need to consider several factors before buying the best compass for drawing. Let’s introduce you to those factors in detail.


The first thing you should look at is the use of the compass. If you are a student and want to buy a compass for your school or college, you can go for a basic bow compass with good durability.

The main focus should be on the convenient leg movement and pencil holder. You might use different pens and pencils with the compass, so the pencil holder should be wide enough.

But if you want a compass for professional drawing or drafting, you can go for larger compasses that let you draw bigger circles with ease.

Build Quality

Next up, the material of the compass is very important. Plastic compasses are pretty good for students. If you want something for more advanced work, metal compasses should be your first choice.

They are very durable and will give you the comfort of storing anywhere without the fear of shattering.


Though we often overlook this, the grip of the compass you are using is crucial. Your drawing can turn into a mess if you don’t have a good grip. Look for the best geometry compass that has a textured grip.

The ergonomic design of a compass is also important, especially if you work with the compass frequently. A comfortable design will ensure you can work without cramping your arms.

Locking Mechanism

The most common issue with compasses is unwanted leg movement while drawing. When you apply pressure on the compass to draw sharp lines, the leg might expand or contract accidentally. This will ruin your drawing.

If the legs can be locked once in the desired position, your drawings will be much precise. Compasses commonly have a center wheel or screw to lock the legs.


Often, having a precise measurement of what you are drawing is important. A compass with a measuring arm will give you the ultimate precision without needing to reach a ruler repeatedly.

Such compasses have an arched ruler fitted to the pivot point. One of the compass legs can be moved along the measuring arm to get a precise distance of the legs. You can achieve accurate drawing with these compasses.

How To Fix a Drawing Compass?

  • Circle compasses may shatter if they are made of plastic. Metal compasses are usually more durable. They are also fixable in the case of errors. In case if you have a poorly working compass, you can follow these steps to fix the compass.
  • Check whether the compass legs can be moved properly. If the legs don’t move freely when the mechanism is unlocked, there might be rust on the pivoting screw of the compass.
  • Unscrew the center point of the compass. Give it a visual inspection to find out any rust or corrosion on the screw or the pivoting point. Use fine-grit sandpaper for sanding the screw if possible.
  • Then, apply some mineral oil to the points where the legs meet and rotate. Also, apply oil to the screw and rub it for a few moments. You can keep things aside for some time so that everything gets smoother. Once everything is smooth, you can reattach them.
  • Place the center screw and tighten it to a level where the legs can move freely. Expand and contract it several times to ensure everything works properly. That’s it, and you are good to go.

How To Use a Drawing Compass?

  • Fixing a pencil or pen to a drawing compass is quite easy. No matter what type of compass you use, go over a few simple steps to fix the pencil to the compass for drawing circles or arcs.
  • First things first, take the right compass for use. If you are using it for math classes, a basic compass will do the job. Choose your compass accordingly if you want to use premium compasses for professional drafting.
  • Take a properly sharped pencil. A sharp pencil lead will ensure you draw the perfect circle.
  • Loosen the clamp of the pencil holder. Insert the pencil into the holder. Before you tighten the clamp, make sure the pencil lead is leveled with the needle of the other leg. Then, tighten the clamp of the pencil holder to hold the pencil in place.
  • Place the needle where you want the center of your circle to be. Expand the leg as required and lock them so that they don’t accidentally move. Hold the head of the compass comfortably and draw the circle you want.


Let’s elaborate things a bit more by answering a few commonly asked questions about drawing compass.

What Is a Drawing Compass Called?

The meaning of the compass is to go around. A drawing compass is also called a compass or a pair of compasses. As pencils are commonly used to draw circles or arcs with compasses, they are also known as pencil compasses.

What Does a Drawing Compass Do?

The primary purpose of a drawing compass is to draw circles, part of circles, or arcs. Certain types like scribing compasses are used to scribe on surfaces or take measurements of two points.

What Is a Pencil Compass?

When a pencil is used on one leg of a compass to draw circles or arcs, it is known as a pencil compass. It is commonly used in geometry classes, professional drawing, and drafting.

How Do You Take Care of a Drawing Compass?

To ensure your compass serves you for a long time, you need to store the compass carefully. Place it inside a padded case to keep it separate from other tools. This will also ensure you don’t accidentally hurt yourself with the compass needle.

What Is Bow Compass?

A bow compass is a small compass used with pencils or pens. The legs of this compass are attached to each other by a spring. Its name comes from the bow shape of the spring.

How Do You Use a Compass To Draw?

A compass should be fitted with the right pencil or pen to draw circles or arcs. The pencil or pen is inserted into the pencil holder and fixed tightly with clamps or screws. The needle is placed on the drawing surface, and the other leg is rotated to draw circles.


Before ending the discussion, we want to remind you of the importance of a good compass once again. A well-balanced compass can enhance your drawing experience while maintaining proper accuracy.

This is why you need to keep an eye on the factors discussed here to get the best compass for drawing. Don’t just fall for the design or price. Instead, check every crucial element that defines whether the compass will be right for your purposes or not.

Having a fancy, expensive compass in your arsenal is cool. But having an ergonomic and precision compass is the ultimate necessity no matter what you use the compass for.

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