Draw a Circle in Ink

The tool to draw a circle is called a compass.  In case you have not seen the tool.


Compass with graphite tip

There are many variations of this drawing tool.  The compass in some form or another goes back thousands of years.  Graphite is the common drawing tip these days but it is not the only one.


Ink drawing tip

In my hand is the ink drawing tip attachment.  Just under my finger is the graphite drawing tip still attached to the compass.  Many compass have detachable heads.  Look for knobs that you can tighten and loosen.  Bellow is mine.

You may have noticed there are two knobs here.  The bottom most one in the picture is for securing and detaching the head.  The top most one in the picture is for securing and detaching the graphite tip once it wears out.  Leave the graphite one alone and just loosen the one securing the head.  Generally speaking you want to turn the knob to the left to release and to the right to secure it.


A decent side by side view of the two tips.  If you look closely you will see for this compass the attachment is forked.  I’ve also seen “straight stumps” so don’t be surprised if yours doesn’t match up perfectly to mine.  The curved one with a straight side to it is called a line drawer.  I know so inventive.


One of the easy mistakes to make is to not slide the attachment all the way in.  This one is NOT all the way in yet.  The second easy mistake is to get the bent part on the “inside” of the compass.  The curve should be on the outside.  Just like this one is.

Another easy mistake to make is to not slide the tip in entirely.  In the picture the tip is only partially in.    Once the tip is entirely in turn the knob to secure it.  Turn the knob to the right or clockwise to tighten it down.

That second knob?  It determines how far apart the tip is.  How far apart should it be?  That depends on the line drawing attachment, the ink you are using and the writing surface the circle will be drawn on.  In other words, test it out and find out what works best for you in the application you are using it for.

Also, get the measurement for the circle you are going to draw BEFORE you put ink into the drawing tip.  Things can get messy if you put  ink  in first and then move the pen to the correct measurement.

I am using sumi ink for this demonstration.  Yes, you can dip it just like any dip pen.  You can also use a paintbrush to “load” the drawing pen attachment.  Remember to draw off extra ink and any bubbles or drops.  Just like any other calligraphy pen.


It doesn’t take much ink.  And yes, there is a slight bit of extra ink that I took off before I used this.

And then you use it like you would if it was a graphite one.  I noticed that I tended to “lay down” the compass more than I would if it was graphite.  I’m not sure if I needed to do that or if I just did it.

Mistakes can and do happen.  With a graphite tip, no big deal.  With ink…


You probably should just start over.  I know I did.

And here is video of one of the circles I drew.

I hope this was useful to you.

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