Your house is adorned with festive lightings, somewhere from the kitchen door the smell of freshly made jalebis and samosas is wafting through and in the front lawn somebody is playing a remix to a Zeenat Aman track. Yes, it’s that time of the year again! Be it diwali, a ceremony, or a wedding, Indian households have a typical appeal to them everytime some festival or celebration comes rolling around. And if you’ve noticed, you will always see a few women and young girls hovering around the mehendi(henna) stall. It’s a rigorous part of our culture, to decorate the woman’s palms with Mehndi or Arabic henna designs although now it has become popular amongst the men also.
Henna, or as we more commonly know it, mehendi, is the art of making designs on a woman or man’s palms, feet, or even their backs, using a paste which is kept inside a cone shaped tube. For five thousand years, it has been considered a symbol of good luck and health in the Arab world, and botanics believe that India was introduced to Henna by the Egyptians in 700 A.D. ‘Henna tattoos’ as they are more prominently called these days, have been popularized in the West by Indian cinema, and have gained mass following in the West as well as the east as symbols of fashion, aside from being a ritual during festivals. Henna designs for hands, palms and feet are no longer the areas of interest; people get them done on their shoulders, ankles, wrists, etc. Arabic henna designs are the ones that started the original trend, and till date, remain the most popular henna mehndi designs amongst all.
Although it takes years of practice and a very steady hand to get the Arabic henna designs just right, that doesn’t mean one can’t follow the basic steps to get a good henna tattoo right at home. In the olden years, matchsticks were used to make beautiful henna designs, whereas now a cone with a small cut right at the bottom is the right way to go about it, in order to get more intricate and delicate designs. Follow the simple instructions below and you will get the perfect henna mehndi designs for yourself, in a few simple steps.
The first thing you need to do is get all your material ready. If you’re buying a readymade henna cone from the market, remember to check its expiry date. Once you’ve done that, your next step would be to test a tiny amount of the henna on your palm, just to check if your skin is allergic to the chemicals in the henna or incase your skin is sensitive to the product. If you are buying henna powder and making into paste on your own, then make sure that the henna hasn’t been sitting too long on the shelf, else it will dry out your entire paste. Although if you’re a beginner, I recommend that you go in for the first option i.e. buying a henna cone, so that you can save yourself the entire fuss of making the paste. Go in for a hand rolled myler or cellophane cone, so that it’s easy for you to maneuver, and you will also get more detailed lines.
Wash your hands with soap and water, and rub on alcohol with a cotton ball if your hands are too oily. To cut open the cone from the bottom, use a hard surface to keep the cone on, and a razor blade to make a precise and clean cut. Remember, if the cut is too big, too much of henna will ooze out. If it’s too small, it won’t be enough and the lines will be very weak and undefined. Use a fingernail cutter for more precision.
Choosing the Design:
Now here comes the fun part! Choosing the design! You can go in for designs with a more modern touch, like your name, or you can stick to the basic Arabic henna designs patterns as well. You can either draw on the design freehand, or you can use design templates which are very easily available in the market. Keep in mind that henna stains darker on your hands and feet, as compared to other parts of the body, as they contain less melanin. Some of the common symbols used for design are as follows:
1. Birds-Peacocks symbolize beauty, swans are the messengers of success and parrots are considered the messengers of love.
2. Flowers- They represent joy and happiness, wherein the lotus flower means grace, purity and feminity, and vines and leaves depicting devotion.
3. Butterflies and dragons symbolize change and rebirth.
4. The paisley is one the most common designs used, representing luck and fertility.
Try practicing your design a few times on a paper before you start making it with henna. Once you have chosen your design, it is important to know how much pressure to apply to the cone so that the exact amount of henna oozes out. Apply light pressure when the cone is full, by holding the cone between your thumb and index finger. As the henna is used up, start applying a little more pressure towards the start of the cone, to push the henna through the cone and then through the cut.
Once your design is made, give the henna time to dry. Don’t let it touch your clothes, because henna can stain them. The henna should not look oily or watery, but it should not be so dry also that cracks begin to appear even before it has dried properly on your hand.
Use a spray gel to coat your henna with one layer of it. A spray gel is what we use to style hair, comes in pump spray bottles and is easily available at the local supermarket or at the chemist. For a second option, you can lightly dab the henna with coconut or jasmine oil, once it has dried a little bit. Remember to dab and not coat it completely, else the henna can come off before it leaves a stain on your hands or feet. You can use a hair dryer to pace up the process of drying the henna. Leave the henna on for atleast 12 hours or overnight if possible. This will give you a darker and more prominent colour.
Once the henna has completely dried up, remove it slowly with a mild soap and water solution. Blot the design with a cloth to increase the life period of the stain. To finish off, take two drops of coconut oil, olive oil or wax lip balm, and dab it onto the design. This will give it a shiny finish and will elongate the amount of time the stain stays on your body.
A Few Tips to Keep in Mind:
- Be sure of the henna you are using. It shouldn’t be expired, neither should it be dry.
- Be very aware of your skin sensitivity. Some skin types are very prone to allergies and reactions from the chemicals in the henna, and it is important to henna the test on a small part of your skin before you apply it completely.
- Keep your materials ready at hand. You really don’t want your henna stained or blotched if you’re trying to grab your oils after you have made your design.
- Cover the entire area where you are working, with a newspaper. This is to avoid the henna falling and staining your floor.
- Keep a cloth ready at hand. The henna from the cut in your cone needs to be wiped off from time to time, as it tends to blotch and dry up at the cut. So keep wiping the cone on the cloth from time to time, as you are making your design.
- Try and get a friend to assist you, especially if you are doing this for the first time.
- If you have designed your henna keeping a specific event in mind, try not doing too much of household work before the event. This tends to fade the design and your really don’t want faded henna on your hands on your special day.
- Keep experimenting with the designs. It’s not necessary to stick to the basic henna hand designs. Once you’re better at henna designing after a little practice, try adding your own creativity and imagination to it.
Have fun! Henna designing is not something you would do on a daily basis, unless you are a professional, so make sure that you have a good time during the entire process.
How to Draw a Paisley Design:
Below is a step by step guide on making the Paisley, one of the most common henna designs for hands and also the easiest to make. Follow this step by step, and you would have a beautiful design ready by the end of the day. But first make this with a pencil on a paper, and proceed only once you have a better idea of how to go about it. Once you have some practice, try and fuel in some creativity with the same design.
1. First draw a simple circle, then add an elongated curve to it on both the sides, and join them at the tip like a comma.
2. Now erase the side of the circle within the elongated point, and join both the structures. Draw over the comma like image and make it darker, and then insert a border line inside it.
3. Start drawing inside the border line, and let your imagination flow. Although leaves and vines are more common, there is no restriction to what you can make. Try and keep things proportionate.
4. Fill in the design you have made with further details. Try and stick to symmetrical shapes like lines.
5. Fill the outer border with a similar design. If you want to go a little out of the box, you can go in for something totally contrasting!
6. With some practice, you will get an idea of how to make a paisley with your eyes closed! Then, just add your own touch to it, and see what other ideas you can come up with.
Arabic Henna Designs Patterns
Here are some more ideas for henna patterns and henna mehndi designs.
Simply follow the steps, and you’ll be good to go!
Watch the following videos to see how easy it is to actually make these Arabic henna designs.
Now that you know how to make beautiful henna designs, go ahead and show off to all your friends and family when the festivals come rolling around!