What Do Henna Artists Do?

C. Webb

Henna body art uses a temporary plant dye to stain the skin. Throughout history, henna art has been used in the East to decorate a bride's skin for a wedding. More recently, henna art has made its way west, and today, henna semi-permanent tattoos are popular worldwide. Henna artists are the experts who place the henna-based images on the skin. Whether the henna is being applied for a wedding or a fun tattoo, the artist uses the same technique and materials.

Henna artists create body art using dye made from the henna plant.
Henna artists create body art using dye made from the henna plant.

Shops employing henna artists can be found throughout North America, Africa, and Asia. In some cases, as with bridal henna artists in India, the artists work from their homes, traveling to wedding sites. Equipment required for henna art is small enough for artists to carry with them.

When applied, henna is a dark brown, almost black ink.
When applied, henna is a dark brown, almost black ink.

Henna preparation is sometimes done by henna artists. Other henna artists purchase it at commercial locations. When applied, henna is a dark brown, almost black ink.

The artist prepares the skin before applying the dye. He or she then uses a pencil-shaped application tool or a thin-tipped paintbrush to apply the henna directly to the top of the skin in a design. The design may be abstract, floral, or realistic, depending on the occasion and the desire of the recipient.

If the client desires a darker color, the henna artist uses a blow dryer to heat the ink once it is on the skin. The artist then advises the customer in the care of the art. Henna typically takes a few hours to dry. It will begin to fade in several weeks to several months, depending on factors such as sun, skin, and washing. Henna artists advise their customers on how to make it last as long as possible, through proper protection and care.

While allergic reactions to henna are rare, they are possible. Henna artists need to become knowledgeable about reactions and what to do about them. They advise clients on how to recognize reactions. Blistering and itching at the site of the ink application are the most common reactions.

A portfolio of patterns and designs is usually prepared by henna artists. They use the portfolio to let customers choose what they want done. In addition, the artists may take art and drawing classes, though those are not necessary if the artist has a natural drawing ability.

Marketing and advertising are other tasks the henna artist must handle. Newspaper advertisements, Internet pages, and word of mouth all get the word out. In addition, the artist should contact wedding planners and tattoo shop owners and ask them to refer customers who want a semi-permanent design.

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Discussion Comments


Unless the artist is working at a beauty salon, it can be challenging for henna artists to find customers. I'm a freelance henna artist and I'm having trouble finding clients. I think it's going to take me a while to get my name out there. I might do a free session just to show people my work and get them interested in henna.


People think that being a henna artist is very easy and it's a fun and easy way to make money. I don't think that's entirely true. Learning to do henna designs can take some time as some of those designs are very detailed and definitely require artistic talent and practice. The other issue is that some types of henna, for example bridal henna, takes hours to complete.

Typical bridal henna according to Southeast Asian tradition for example, involves detailed designs all over the hands, arms, feet and lower legs. They cover all skin in these areas. So one can imagine how long it would take to complete it all. It's easier if two artists are working at the same time, but then they have to make sure that their designs match one another's completely.

And once the bride's henna is done, other women in the family usually want henna too!


My sister had her eyebrows colored with henna recently. It looks very good, more defined but also natural. This is become a trend nowadays.

I personally love the traditional henna designs done on the hands and arms. I'd love to be a henna artist in my free time. I think it would be fun.

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