Henna, or mehndi, is a natural dye that has been used since ancient times for decorative art on women's bodies. In the Indian subcontinent and in the Arab countries it is customary for women to apply elaborate and intricate henna designs on their hands and feet for festivals and weddings.
The first important step is to get mehndi paste. This can either be bought at a store that sells natural dyes (it comes in squeeze tubes) or it can be made at home. In the latter case, you add water to mehndi powder and allow the mixture to sit for some hours before starting the application. This will ensure that the colour of the dye is rich and will stay on the hand for some time. Once the mehndi is ready, it is time to begin the application.
Simplicity Is Best
For beginners, the best designs are the simplest. This is not just a matter of beginner's skills; it is also because the simplest designs are the clearest and neatest, easy to apply and admire. Traditionally, mehndi is applied on the palms and backs of hands and on the feet, and this is where a beginner should start. Remember, it is important for the sake of symmetry to balance the design on both hands, if in fact you want to apply it on both hands.
Choosing a Design
Some clever and simple designs are a dot, paisley, circle, leaf, flower or web. This centre design can then be embellished with tiny, intricate spots or waves or a web. The paisley can be filled with mehndi colour to highlight against the palm, or filled with dots. The outline shape of the chosen pattern could be highlighted with a double boundary. The flower can be a clover, lotus or simple daisy.
Once the design has been applied, it is important to let it dry before washing it off, to make sure the mehndi leaves a rich hue. If you wash it too soon, the colour will be barely noticeable and will wash away in a couple of days. Ideally, natural mehndi designs stay for 10 to 15 days. The colour on the palms stays longer than the colour applied to the backs of hands, because of the difference in the skin type.