How To Make a Henna Tattoo

Use Henna to Apply Custom Temporary Tattoo Designs and Body Art

Girl getting henna tattoo on her hand

Mehndi, known as Henna in the States, has a long-standing tradition in many ancient cultures. Henna is actually the name given to the powder used to create the henna tattoo designs on the skin. The powder itself is green in color, but upon drying, it commonly leaves behind an orange-red color. There are many suppliers now that offer henna in a variety of colors, but these are not recommended for temporary tattoos. When other colors are added to natural henna, skin reactions can be mild to severe; this dye is best embraced in its pure, original form. Also, by using henna in its most pure (uncolored) form, you will highly reduce the risk of irritation or allergic reaction. Before applying natural henna, you should not need to do a skin patch test - however, a skin test is highly recommended if you intend to use one of the colored or treated henna pastes.

No matter your artistic skills, you can give henna tattoos a try on yourself or your friends. The classic Mehndi designs are very detailed, but you can use the henna paste to create any design you choose. When it comes to the paste, some prefer to buy it pre-made in a tube; others say they get better results by mixing their own.  

We are going to teach you how to make henna tattoos by first learning how to make henna itself. Here is a common and effective recipe for henna paste:

  1. To make the henna dye, sift out enough henna to make about 1-1/4 cups of dry, sifted henna powder.
  2. Take 2 packets of instant coffee singles (the ones that look like tea bags) and boil them in about 1 1/2 cups of water until the liquid boils down to about 3/4 of a cup of dark liquid.
  3. Mix just enough coffee into the powder to create a thick paste. The hot liquid will make the powder ball up a little, so be sure to mix it until it is well blended and smooth. Add about 2 tablespoons lemon juice; fresh is best.
  4. Add about 5 drops of eucalyptus oil.
  5. Add about 5 drops of clove oil.

The paste should be thin but not runny. If it is too runny, add a little more sifted henna powder. If it's too thick, add a little more coffee or plain water. Allow the mixture to settle and cool for about 2 hours before using. Note: This recipe does make a large amount of henna paste. If you plan on doing only a small amount of work, feel free to halve or quarter the measurements listed above. Any paste that is not used can be stored, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 2 months.

When applying homemade henna paste, you can work with toothpicks, squeeze bottles, or a cone. You can buy a cone if you like, but you can also make your own out of a plastic freezer bag. Cut the bag into a small square, fold it into a cone shape, and tape it. The other way to do it is to just cut off one of the bottom corners and hold it like a cone, as though you were applying icing to a cake.  For the best results, you should only cut a tiny bit to make a very small hole.

The only thing left to do is decide on the design you are going to apply. Most henna kits include sample designs or stencils to work from. There are also many books which have sample patterns for you to work with. You are also free to create or customize any design your heart desires. Most traditional henna patterns are based on very simple shapes, which are then combined to create a very intricate pattern.

You have a few choices when it comes to the actual process of application for henna tattoos. If you are confident in your artistic skills, you can apply the henna paste freehand, or without a stencil. For intricate  designs even the pros sometimes use stencils, which is a great thing to do if you've never used henna before. The most common way to apply henna is with the previously mentioned cone, which allows for precise application. If you feel more comfortable with a paintbrush, using a very small one will work as well.

After applying, the applicant must sit and wait for the henna paste to dry, which can take hours. Once it is dry, the design will last for a few weeks - so the time spent waiting is worth it.


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