In this paper we propose a novel character recognition method for Bangla compound characters. Accurate recognition of compound characters is a difficult problem due to their complex shapes. Our strategy is to decompose a compound character into skeletal segments. The compound character is then recognized by extracting the convex shape primitives and using a template matching scheme. The novelty of our approach lies in the formulation of appropriate rules of character decomposition for segmenting the character skeleton into stroke segments and then grouping them for extraction of meaningful shape components. Our technique is applicable to both printed and handwritten characters. The proposed method performs well for complex-shaped compound characters, which were confusing to the existing methods. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.