Temporary Tattoo Ink

Mehndi art being applied freehand

Temporary tattoo ink offers you the opportunity to try out different artistic patterns and designs in a body art form without permanently marking your skin. Whether you want to try out a short-term tattooed look, portray a character or adorn your skin with ritualistic cosmetic markings, temporary tattoo ink allows you to do so without a long-term commitment.


Henna is quite possibly the oldest and most well-known temporary tattoo ink. It has been used for body art in regions such as India, Africa and the Middle East for centuries. Called Mehndi, henna artistry is traditionally used for wedding and during important rites of passage. It is also used in times of festivity and commemoration including Purim, Passover and Norouz. The Henna plant (Lawsonia inermis) is believed to bring love and good luck, and is used to ward off any form of evil eye.

How to Apply Henna

Henna tattoo

Applying henna paste to the skin is relatively simple, although creating masterful designs and striking artistic patterns will take practice. The henna is applied through a thin tube made of mylar. These cones are available in kits along with the paste, as well as versions pre-filled with the henna. Try your hand at applying the henna on some blank paper before using any on your own skin.

  1. Apply the henna using a mylar cone. Squeeze the top of the cone to control the amount that comes out at a time.
  2. Begin drawing your temporary tattoo in the upper left corner (or upper right corner if you happen to be left handed) in order to avoid smudging.
  3. Try using a stencil to reduce the effort needed to create simple classic images.
  4. Apply a solution of lemon juice and sugar over the finished henna design. The sugar helps keep henna sticking to your skin for a longer duration of time while the lemon juice keeps the paste moist and staining your skin with a deeper color.

Purchase a henna kit including stencils and the paste from Mehandi or get a pre-mixed tube ready to go from Ghelot.

Jagua Ink

Jagua seen above a permanent tattoo
Jagua seen above a permanent tattoo

Jagua ink is derived from the fruit Genipa americana. Discovered in the Amazon, this fruit is about the size of an apricot with a very thick rind. Indigenous people throughout Central and South America originally used jagua for body adornment, extracting the natural dye from unripe fruit. Today, as the trend of tattoos and body art has become increasingly popular throughout the global community, jagua can be found nearly anywhere temporary tattoos are sold.

Applying Jagua

Jagua is applied through a small squeeze bottle. It is a liquid that flows easily when wet, then dries into a thick peel. The ink is available for purchase already inside its applicator for ease of use.

  1. Apply the jagua ink directly from the squeeze bottle onto the skin. For best results, trace the design on with a stencil first, then go over it with the jagua ink.
  2. Let the outer covering harden to a peel.
  3. Wait a few hours, then peel away the outer covering.
  4. Let the color of the stain darken; this may take several hours to a couple of days to reach its fullest level of color.

You can purchase ready to apply jagua ink in an applicator from Jagua Ink Products or get a kit complete with stencils and designs from Earth Henna.

Tattoo Markers

Markers come in sets of all colors and are incredibly easy to use on the skin. They work like a regular, fine-tip marker, but are non-toxic, gentle on the skin and wash off easily once you are done.

How to Use Tattoo Markers

  1. Practice the design you want on a piece of paper to learn to control the amount of color that comes out of the markers.
  2. Color directly onto the skin, tracing the design on with a light hand first.
  3. Color in the outline with the markers to get the look you want.

You can get a six pack of markers with a fine tip from DriMark Tattoo Marks or Body Doodler.

Airbrush Paint


Airbrush guns will paint the tattoo-look of your choice onto your skin in a body paint style by blowing or spraying the the paint onto your skin with an airbrush gun. This is usually with the stencils, though freehand work is also possible. With this type of temporary body art, the colors blend seamlessly into one another, creating beautifully artistic images and scenes on the skin.

How to Apply Airbrush Paint

  1. Place a stencil over the skin. You may need several stencils for one tattoo; each stencil will allow one color to be applied to one portion of the design.
  2. Pour the ink into the reservoir and turn on the machine.
  3. Operate the air flow through the foot depressor on the machine.
  4. Aim the gun at the stencil and let enough air through the machine to blow the color over the stencil or the skin.
  5. If using more than one stencil, change out the stencil and the color in the reservoir before continuing.

You can purchase airbrush guns and paint from both Airbrush Temporary Tattoos and European Body Art. Both companies sell complete kits that include stencils for every experience level.

Body Paint

Body paint

Body paints are available in a wide variety of colors, but not all are safe for use on the face. If you plan to create a temporary tattoo on the face, look for inks listed as a face and body product to be sure the ingredients are safe for facial skin and for use near the eyes or mouth.

How to Apply Body Paint

Depending on the type of body paint you use, it may come with an applicator, or you may need to use your own paintbrush. Paintbrushes used for oil paints may give the best results.

  1. Apply the paint to clean, dry skin.
  2. Work from top to bottom to avoid smudging the paint.
  3. Apply a thin coat of loose powder when you are done to set the paint.

Two brands to try include Liquid Latex, a thick, moveable body covering and Mehron, a theatrical paint supplier.

Express Yourself

Temporary tattoos are a fun way to try out some ink without the pain, permanence or cost of the real thing. Try out a temporary tattoo method or two and express yourself through your skin.

Temporary Tattoo Ink