This Henna Hand Designs Art Lesson shows you how to create a unique and unusual self-portrait of your hands! It's a great art project for kids, because it allows them to learn about:
It's also a fun art project for adults for the exact same reasons!
First I'll give you a bit of background info about henna, and then launch into the art project.
Henna is a plant that has been used as a dye since the Bronze Ages, primarily in the Eastern Mediterranean region encompassing Northern Africa, Italy, Spain, and the Middle East. It was also widely used in India, where it is still a popular form of temporary body art to this day.
To create a dye for the skin, the henna plant is grounded into a paste with a few other ingredients, which is then applied to the body using a cone-shaped funnel. The henna must stay undisturbed on the skin for several hours to properly stain the skin, and then it is washed off. Henna designs can last for days or months.
In India, henna designs on skin are called mehndi.
Henna being applied to a tourist in Rishikesh, India. Photo Credit: McKay Savage
In many cultures, women have henna decorations applied to their hands and feet for festivals and celebrations. Before a wedding, a bride will have elaborate henna designs drawn onto her hands, arms and sometimes feet. In some regions, the groom will be decorated as well.
Henna on the hands of a bride. Photo Credit: Marian
Henna decorations have also become popular in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, where it takes the form of a "temporary tattoo".
In this art project, you'll trace an outline of your hand(s) onto paper and then decorate them with henna designs! This is less messy than trying to apply actual henna on your (or your students') hands, and it allows you to create something that you can keep forever.
If you're a teacher, start by showing your students photos of hands decorated with henna, like the ones on this page. Give them a bit of background info about the origins of henna, as well as how and why it's used today.
The first step is to trace your hand onto the paper. I recommend using a pencil to outline your hand first, so that you can erase any mistakes. Then go over the outline with a pen or marker.
Tip: Be sure to spread your fingers far enough apart so that you can easily get the pencil in between your fingers.
Now you can fill your hand with designs and patterns!
The patterns and imagery you choose reflect who you are – your personality, your essence, your own unique flair. By drawing patterns on your hand, you are creating an original self-portrait that captures the essence of who you are!
Common motifs found in henna hand designs include:
flowers, paisley, tendrils, stars, vines, spirals, leaves, water drops, criss-crosses, waves, and more.
I'll show you some of these designs below. You can also totally make up patterns as you go along!
If you need a jump-start or a crash course in pattern-making, check out my tutorial on how to draw patterns step by step, where you'll learn how to create patterns off the top of your head. I'll also how you how to draw patterns like this:
You might want to draw your designs with a pencil first, so that you can erase any mistakes - or you can leap right in with a pen or marker. I chose to pencil in my designs first, but you can do it either way.
The pen you use can be any color you want! If you want your designs to really look like henna, you might want to choose a brown pen or marker, because henna usually dries to a brownish color. But you can choose any color you want – pick your favorite color, one that represents you the best!
Also, it's ideal to use just one single color for the designs if you want the henna hand designs to truly resemble henna (plus in a classroom it's easier to pass out one marker per student)… but with that said, there are no rules, so you can use a lot of colors if you want – and your Henna Hand Designs Art Project will look just as pretty!
It's easiest if you divide up your pattern-making into 3 sections:
Here's an example of how all 3 of these sections look after they are decorated with designs:
The patterns on your fingers will go from your fingertip to the top of your palm. Here are some ideas to get you started:
You can use the same pattern on all fingers, or put a different pattern on each finger.
You can also decorate the fingertips with special designs, like flowers, stars or other symbols.
Another idea is to draw a ring-like pattern at the base of each finger. See the sample hand below for inspiration.
Here are some more samples of henna tattoo designs for fingers:
The palm gives you a wide open space for creative expression.
Henna designs on the palm commonly involve an abstract design that emanates out from the center, like a mandala.
To create a design like this, pinpoint the center of the palm (or close enough to the center) and start with a dot, a circle, a spiral, a flower, a star… any symbol or image that you like. Then continue adding designs that radiate out from that central point.
That's one of the easiest ways to create a mandala, and they happen to look great on palms!
Another idea for decorating the palm is to draw something that personally symbolizes you. It could be a particular flower, a bird, a favorite pet, or any object that describes who you are. You don't need to worry about making it look realistic, because henna designs are abstract. This is all about creative expression!
The henna design on the wrist will basically be a horizontal pattern that goes across one side to the other. Here are some examples of henna wrist designs:
If you want to see more ideas for patterns, check out my tutorial on how to draw patterns step by step. In that tutorial I walk you step by step through the process of drawing each of the 4 patterns below, as well as explain the basic concept to making your own patterns, off the top of your head!
Remember that your drawing doesn't have to be perfect... it's character that matters here - your character!
I created my henna hand designs using:
You can use any type of pen, marker, or paper to create your Henna Hand Design, such as any of the art materials below. I've also included links to different types of paper you can use to spice up your henna hand – for instance, how would the rustic, natural texture of papyrus set off a henna hand design drawn in sepia, crimson or black?
You could also decorate your henna hand designs with glitter, gems, and other goodies.
There are many sources on the Internet for henna designs, henna patterns, and artists who are inspired by henna.
Stephanie Smith is an artist who avidly creates mandalas, and sometimes "handalas", like the one shown in her sketchbook on the left!
To find more samples of henna tattoo designs, do a Google Image Search for "henna hand designs" and you'll come up with many examples of henna tattoo designs (both photos and drawings) to get your creative juices flowing.
Here are two sources you can look at for henna designs:
Check out this henna hand designs gallery to see samples of henna tattoo designs.
Here is an excellent henna resource, with a page of free PDF downloads that include tons of samples of henna tattoo designs.
Click to return to the Abstract Art Table of Contents, where you can...
If you like my abstract art, check out my printable Abstract Coloring Book with 20 pages of intricate abstract line art to fill in with COLOR!
For more abstract designs, check out my printable Mandala Coloring Book, with 23 pages of mandalas that you can color!