This paper is part of the special publication Continental transpressional and transtensional tectonics (eds R.E. Holdsworth, R.A. Strachan and J.F. Dewey). Most continental magmatic arcs occur in obliquely convergent settings and display strike-slip movement within, or adjacent to the magmatic arc, and contractional structures in the forearc and backarc regions. Thus, three-dimensional transpressional kinematics typifies many arc settings, both modern and ancient. Intrusions cause magma-facilitated strike-slip partitioning, even in cases where the relative angle of plate convergence is almost normal to the plate boundary. Transpressional systems are preferentially intruded by magmas because of the steep pressure gradients in vertical strike-slip shear zones and their ability to force magma upward. Both buoyancy and transpressional dynamics cause a component of magma overpressuring, which in turn expels granitic magma upward following the vertical pressure gradient. The tectonic and magmatic processes are linked in a positive feedback loop which facilitates the upward movement of magma. We propose a lithospheric-scale, three-dimensional model of transpressional arc settings. Strike-slip motion is partitioned into the magmatic arc settings because of the linear and margin-parallel trend of the vertical, lithospheric-scale weakness caused by ascending magma. The parallelism of contraction structures in the forearc and backarc regions is caused by mechanical coupling through the lower crust and upper lithospheric mantle. The displacement field of the basal layer of the arc system provides the boundary condition for the upper-crustal, strike-slip partitioned deformation.