For all of March I have been writing posts on my website for beginners. Day before yesterday I tackled the basics of compensation, then decided I couldn't stop with only a definition. Yesterday I wrote more on compensation and touched on the subject of how compensation and stitch choice are inextricably bound together.
Compensation is basically using parts of a stitch to fill in a design element when the whole stitch unit won't fit. Stitchers get all caught up in the art of compensation and sometimes it seems to me, one compensates just for the sake of making it difficult.
Alas, I have seen bad stitch choices where 50% of the stitches are compensating stitches. I know many stitchers think this is a sign of expertise, but all it does essentially is goop up the piece.
I was pleased with my post yesterday because I used illustrations to define compensation, then I changed the compensation and eventually I changed the stitch choice. In the illustration of my final stitch choice, there was hardly any compensation, mainly because the stitch fit the shape so well.
Stitch selection is all important in all ways including compensation. If you have to do too much rigorous compensation, my guess is you are using the wrong stitch. Start working on another choice.
When you look at a design, look at the shapes involved and try to figure out stitch patterns that reflect the shapes. A shape isn't something to be filled with any old stitch pattern just because you like the stitch pattern. The stitch choice should play into the shape and enhance its line. More often than not, if you find a stitch that mirrors the shape in scale and in line, you will find you don't have to struggle much with compensation.
For my articles on compensation: www.GayAnnRogers and click on "For Beginners".