Henna is a dye plant used since ancient times. When it is applied on the skin, usually as a form of temporary art, as is done in India, Pakistan, Arab countries, and by expatriate communities from these areas, it is called Mehndi. Mehndi patterns became popular in North America and Europe in the mid 1990’s where they are associated with tattoos. This is misleading because mehndi does not involve permanent insertion of pigment under the epidermis.
Unlike in the Indian subcontinent, when designs of mehndi are performed in the West, no ritual is involved. Also, the guidelines and rules as to what can or can’t be done are usually absent. The goal is decoration or simply to have fun.
Before applying the henna mehndi, it helps to know a design.
An easy way to apply henna is through pre-made stencils over which a brush can be used. It is for beginners or those who do not want to make mistakes. However, the end result will not be as refined as one done freestyle by hand. There are many websites that offer free mehndi designs for download.
A popular way to draw henna designs is through henna cones that can be rolled by yourself. Henna cones are to henna what pens are for ink and are preferred when very delicate bridal mehndi patterns are desired. Be advised that they can be messy and for this reason, many prefer to use toothpicks, trading off some loss of detail.
One does not need art skills to create mehndi patterns. All that’s needed is some imagination and patience. In fact, traditional mehndi patterns are formed by combinations of simple geometric shapes like curves, triangles or hearts.
Begin by choosing a simple shape as your dominant theme, such as a circle. Expand on it from there. The design can be done on the hand or other part of the body. If you are new, it is best to get it right on paper first. Keep in mind that the henna dye dries quickly and forms difficult to remove stains. The task is as serious as giving a haircut.
Once you are happy with the design on paper, you can do one of two things. Draw the design and use the sketch as your guide. Or use a sheet of carbon to transfer the mehndi design on to the skin. The first method is preferred because it allows you to get the size right more easily.
Before drawing your first design, it is recommended that you watch a few videos on bridal mehndi design. You will notice the incredible diversity in style from one designer to the next. In time, and with practice, you will discover the mehndi designs that flow naturally through you perhaps even decide to become a professional bridal mehndi designer.