Mark your skin with symbolic beauty and watch the design deepen, darken and fade. Henna is a temporary tattoo, a plant stain used for millennia in India, Africa and the Middle East as an exotic but ephemeral body ornament. Collect henna images to inspire your own body art.
Free Printable Henna Designs
Henna yourself with an online kit and a good design - just practice working with the henna dispenser on cardboard before you get wild on your own epidermal real estate. Here are a few downloadable, printable designs you can use, or take to a henna artist who can rock your temporary tat. Simply click on the image to download it in a new window. If you wish to print the design, click the printer icon, select your printer, and click 'Ok.' For more help, check out these helpful tips for Adobe printables.
Elephants make gorgeous tattoos and are particularly meaningful to activists concerned with their survival in the wild. An elephant tattoo in henna on your rib cage or the back of a shoulder is a great summer statement with lots of eye-appeal. A smaller version will fit on your calf or thigh. Elephants, in the Hindu culture, are bringers of abundance and removers of obstacles.
The lotus grows from its roots in the mud toward light and the sky, breaking the water's surface to open in a long-lasting exquisite blossom. A symbolic lotus design evokes pure beauty and the grace of enlightenment. Depending on the region and the religion, a lotus may have different symbolism, ranging from spiritual significance to a sign of good fortune. A detailed Indian-inspired lotus design fits perfectly on the top of a foot or hand, the round surface of the upper arm, or centered at the back of the neck.
Be a traditionalist and cover your palms in decorative henna. If you choose to henna both hands, they don't have to be mirror images of each other. Try out a couple of interesting designs: light and lacy or dense and detailed, one on each hand. You may also consider adding just henna one palm and extend the "cuff" of the pattern to the inside of your wrist. It's your body art - play with it.
Borders and Symbols
Henna patterns tell a story of place. The Sanskrit symbols are revered by ancient cultures and interpreted in the styles of different regions. Moroccan henna favors geometric designs. African designs tend toward bolder patterns. Pakistani and Indian art features delicate tracery. A lacy design is a beautiful border on your foot and can complement Sanskrit symbols done on the top or sides of legs and feet.
Mehndi Marriage Custom
Mehndi - a hand decorating tradition for Indian brides - might be the distinctive touch of henna for your own nuptials. The legend is that the bride would do no housework for the month until the wedding henna faded - a "honeymoon." Book a session with an artist to help paint beautiful mehndi designs for yourself and bridesmaids as a shared celebration. An intricate peacock pattern, such as the one shown here, is perfect for a new bride since the peacock symbolizes beauty.
Express Yourself With Original Hand Art
There are no restrictions on how much skin you cover with design, and you don't have to wait until your wedding day to try out pretty henna designs on your hands. Traditional hand henna might begin at your fingertips and continue up over your wrist, partway up your arm. Popular designs include paisley prints, swirled designs, and floral patterns, but modern looks can incorporate anything that means something to your personal story and sense of style. Get a henna tattoos with a friend and try out completely different patterns - experiment with a variety of designs for an original look.
No Limits With Non-Traditional Designs
There's no need to limit henna tattooing to hands and feet. The graceful designs are attention-grabbers on an exposed shoulder or the back of your neck. Consider a contemporary interpretation of a classic design, such as this oversize floral pattern, that follows the natural contours of your body. Do the artwork during warmer weather so you have a chance to show it off before it fades.
You would never have your growing belly inked to celebrate a pregnancy but you can "gift wrap" that baby in a henna design. Choose an organic henna with all-natural additives, such as organic lemon juice, spring water and pure essential oils. A "global" design emphasizes your baby bump - the known center of your expectant universe.
According to AmericanPregancy.org, natural, safe henna that is red or brown in color can be used during pregnancy, but cautions that black henna should never be used as it can cause burns, blisters, and other problematic conditions that can be difficult to treat.
Barefoot or lightly sandalled, your exposed feet are art-on-the-move when they are covered in architectural filigree. Get a pedicure and head for the henna salon. Cover the entire top of your foot or work the design around your favorite pair of sandals. Foot henna, balanced on the most delicate barely-there heels and peeping out from beneath the hem of an evening gown is one way to make your mark at the ball.
Beautiful Back Design
A henna artist can bless your back with a nape-to-tush illustration of swirls, flowers, symbols and Sanskrit writing. A flowing lotus, growing from the mud to the sky, could curve up your spine. Any full back deserves a backless or halter dress so it can be admired - even if you need a mirror to see it.
Free Designs and Artist Galleries
Henna is as much a culture as it is an art. Those artists who work with henna are proud of the work that they have done and many wish to share it with the world:
- Free Henna by Heather: A talented artist, Heather has provided several very beautiful henna designs. Her designs are not made for stenciling but you can go the traditional tattooist route and make your own tattoo transfer.
- Mehndiskin Art: Several evocative and distinctive henna designs free for you to use.
- Mehndi NYC offers a full array of traditional and customized mehndi applications for life transitions, weddings, pregnancy and other celebrations. The artist's website features a gallery to inspire you - and a menu of options for engaging her expertise.
- Henna San Diego creates designs for weddings, parties and maternity adornment. See their portfolio for lots of images on feet, bellies, shoulders and hands.
Mark your rite of passage, your joyous occasion or your exultation in being alive with a decorative flourish that lingers for a time on the surface of your life. A henna tattoo is a gentle paste art session that involves no pain and may even be fairly meditative. The art is a reminder of the beauty of the human form and spirit. Your choice of designs will reflect your own cultural heritage or aspirations. You may be delighted to discover that henna tattoos become a habit that's hard to break.