Flashback: Henna Tattoos

Craft & Design
Flashback: Henna Tattoos

With so many awesome exclusive projects posted here on CRAFT, it’s nice to look back every once in a while and revisit some of our favorites. Enter the Flashback! Today, we’re checking out Brookelynn’s tutorial for creating your own beautiful henna tattoos. The project originally ran as part of our Summer Camp series back in 2010, but it’s a perfect project for any time of year. Enjoy!
How-To: Henna Tattoos
by Brookelynn Morris

Henna tattoos are perfect for summertime. They are natural, they are beautiful, and they are temporary! Because one batch of henna goes a long way, henna tattoos are a great activity for parties and are especially fun for kids at a sleep over.
I tend to give them as part of celebrations, say at a baby shower or bachelorette party, but I also love giving them to people who need some love and healing. When Goli had her knee surgery, I gave her a henna tattoo on her foot. A pretty henna tattoo stays with the wearer as a reminder of love and joy before it fades away. You can mix up a batch so easily, and apply them with common household tools. The recipe is a cinch, but you can even pick up a kit at most craft stores if you like.

Materials for the Henna Paste:
Henna powder, 1/4 cup
Tea, strongly brewed, 2-3 tablespoons
1 Lemon
Eucalyptus Oil, 3-5 drops
Materials for Applying the Tattoo:
Squeeze bottle
Various tips
Straight pin
Cotton ballls
Materials to Remove the Paste:
Olive Oil
Cotton balls

Step 1: Check your henna for any sticks or large bits of plant matter. If your henna seems coarse, sift it carefully first. Mix the henna with very darkly brewed tea and the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a few drops of essential oil. Start by adding very small amounts of tea to the henna powder. I like to describe the perfect consistency by comparing it to toothpaste: the goal is for the henna to be finer in texture than the toothpaste, and a slight bit more runny than toothpaste. Once you have the perfect blend, put it in the squeeze bottle and let it sit for at least one hour.
Tip* Before you start drawing on anyone’s hands, practice on a scrap of paper first. If your henna seems too thick to easily extrude, add some more tea. It if is too thin to form a nice line, add some more henna powder. This is also when you should try out the different tips for the squeeze bottle. Some might be too big, some might be too small. I have a .7 mm, a .5mm, and a .9mm. I switch between them depending on the design.
Step 2: Scrub the hand that is going to get the tattoo to remove any oils from the skin before you start. The cleaner the better! Pat it dry, and then start tattooing! Here is my advice for creating a great design:
While traditional henna patterns are very busy, the best thing to do is keep it simple! Even the most complex henna designs are composed by combining lots of little basic shapes. Try one large circle then fill it in with small lines, half moons, and little flowers. Vines are easy to freestyle too! Instead of trying to do something crazy without much practice, I guarantee that you will be happier executing a simple design perfectly.
Work from the center out. It’s so easy to smudge the henna, so if you move outward with the drawing, you are less likely to drag your own hand through the work you have already laid down.
Different parts of the hand take the henna in different ways. The creases in the wrist pose a few problems- it is hard to keep the wrist still, and the lines also drink up the color more than the back of the hand. Knuckles also take the color more, and the henna tends to bleed more on the knuckles. The palm tends to take the color the very best. This is a good thing to keep in mind because some people have skin that is less likely to take a dark color- if someone knows that their skin doesn’t take henna very well, try doing a design on their palm.
Step 3: As you draw, you will inevitably make mistakes. If the paste isn’t mixed perfectly, the squeeze bottle will sometimes burps out a blop. If this is a problem, remix the paste. Use the straight pin to clear any clogs from the tip.
Keep lots of q-tips nearby for this purpose, because the trick to erasing is getting the paste up quickly. Q-tips are great for clean up, and I know this sounds strange, but I like to lick the cotton ends first. It tames the cotton fibers so that you have more accuracy, and the bit of moisture aides in cleaning without dripping water on the design.
Step 4: After I have drawn the big elements of my design, I like to go back and add tiny dots. I tend to put the dots in clusters of three. They are my secret to making a very simple design seem more dainty. I always put them under the nails too.
Step 5: As soon as the henna is applied to the skin, it will begin to dry. The paste will crack as it dries, and when it starts to crack, that is when you can cover the tattoo with a mixture of lemon and sugar. Squeeze a wedge of lemon and mix it with a bit of sugar. When the henna has dried enough to be stable, re-moisten it by dabbing it with a cotton ball soaked in the lemon/sugar mixture. This has a twofold effect: the acid in the lemon helps the skin continue to take in the stain, and the sugar creates a sticky coating that helps hold the henna on the skin. Here is my advice for caring for your completed design:
The more often you can re-moisten the tattoo, the darker it will be.
Hairdryers are great for drying the design quickly. Also, henna tends to make my hand very, very cold. I’ve read that henna was originally applied to the bottom of the feet to keep them cool when walking barefoot on hot ground, and was also applied to babies hands to reduce fevers in early childhood. The hairdryer is welcome warmth when my hand is chilled from the paste.
LEAVE THE HENNA ON FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. I can’t stress this enough. Try to keep it on for 12 hours. Once the paste dries and has it’s sticky sugar coating, it will actually be very stable. As long as you keep your hand dry, it will stay on. If you can, sleep with the henna paste on your hand over night. Wrap your hand in toilet paper to keep it from smudging off on your sheets.
Step 6: The method you use to remove the henna will greatly determine how dark the design gets and how long it lasts. To give it the best chance, not use water to remove the paste! Instead use olive oil, or vegetable oil, or even essential oil. Soak a cotton ball in oil, and then rub the paste off gently. After you remove the henna, be aware that the design will continue to darken over the next 10-12 hours.
In the early stages of your tattoo, water is the enemy. For at least the first day, stay away from it! That means don’t do dishes and don’t wash your hair while the design sets that day. Also in the beginning, avoid tasks that will be abrasive on your hands like gardening and wearing gloves. With all luck, the tattoo should last 1-2 weeks.

2 thoughts on “Flashback: Henna Tattoos

  1. Julia says:

    Where the heck do you get henna?!

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