DIY Henna Instructions: Learn How To Make Dye From Henna Leaves
The use of henna is an age-old art. It has been used for thousands of years to dye hair, skin and even nails. This dye is from a henna tree, Lasonia inermis, and is a natural dye that many people are turning to once again as a source of chemical free color. Is it possible to make your own homemade henna? If so, how do you make dye from henna trees? Read on to find out how to make a DIY dye from henna.
How to Make Dye from Henna Trees
In many parts of the world, such as North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, henna leaves are ground into a green powder and mixed with an acid like lemon juice or even highly acidic tea. This concoction releases the dye molecules, lawsone, from the plants cells.
The powder resulting from the dried leaves can be found at specialty shops that cater to people from these regions. But how about making your own homemade henna? It’s actually quite easy, if you can find fresh henna leaves.
Making DIY Henna Dye
The first step to your DIY henna is obtaining fresh henna leaves. Try Middle Eastern or South Asian markets or order online. Set the leaves out flat and dry them outside in the shade, not the sun. Sunshine will cause them to lose some of their potency. Drying may take a few weeks until they are crisp.
Once the leaves have dried completely, grind them using a mortar and pestle. You want them ground as finely as possible. Strain the resulting powder through a sieve or through muslin. That’s it! Use the powder immediately for the best effect, or store in a cool, dark and dry area in a sealed plastic bag.
Coloring Your Hair with Dye from a Henna Tree
To use your henna, combine the powdered leaves with lemon juice or decaffeinated tea to create a loose, wet mud. Allow the henna to sit overnight at room temperature. The next day it will be thicker, more mud-like, less wet, and darker. Now it’s ready to use.
Apply the henna to your hair just as you would a home hair dye using disposable gloves. Henna will dye skin, so keep an old damp rag nearby to wipe your skin immediately if the henna drips on you. Also, be sure to wear an old shirt and remove anything nearby like a bath mat or towels that you don’t want to dye reddish-orange.
Once the henna is on your hair, cover it with a plastic shower cap and wrap your head in an old towel or scarf like a turban to keep any wayward henna from getting on things. Then just leave it on for 3-4 hours or overnight for stubborn gray hair.
Once the time has elapsed, wash the henna out. Take your time, at this point it is like mud entrenched in your hair and will be difficult to remove. Use an old towel to dry hair just in case there is some leftover henna that will dye it. Once the henna has been thoroughly rinsed from your hair, you’re done!
Henna is a dye prepared from the plant Lawsonia inermis, also known as the henna tree, the mignonette tree, and the Egyptian privet,  the sole species of the genus Lawsonia.
Henna can also refer to the temporary body art resulting from the staining of the skin from the dyes. After henna stains reach their peak color, they hold for a few days, then gradually wear off by way of exfoliation, typically within one to three weeks.
Henna has been used since antiquity in ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush to dye skin, hair and fingernails, as well as fabrics including silk, wool and leather. Historically, henna was used in the Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, Arabian Peninsula, Near and Middle East, Carthage, other parts of North Africa, West Africa and the Horn of Africa.
The name "henna" is used in other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna and neutral henna, neither of which is derived from the henna plant.  
Earth Henna® is a unique, all-natural henna mix that was created to simplify the centuries-old application process into easy-to-use henna kits. Once mixed, Earth Henna paste lasts four weeks, if refrigerated and proper staining of the skin is achieved in just 6 hours! If you’re not artistically inclined, our Earth Henna Tattoo Kits feature beautiful stencil sheets to help you create perfect henna designs in just minutes.
On this page you can learn all about henna and its unique properties. (See also our Henna FAQs.)
For centuries, mehndi—the art of henna painting on the body—has been practiced in India, Africa, and the Middle East, where the henna plant is believed to bring love and good fortune, and to protect against evil. Mehndi is traditionally practiced for wedding ceremonies, during important rites of passage, and in times of joyous celebration. A paste made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant is applied to the skin, and when removed several hours later, leaves beautiful markings on the skin that fade naturally over 1 to 3 weeks.
Henna has been used throughout Africa, India,
and the Middle East for thousands of years.
Henna Use in the Past
Besides being the key ingredient in mehndi, henna has also been used to dye the manes and hooves of horses, and to color wool, silk, and animal skins, as well as men’s beards. Studies of mummies dating back to 1200 BC show that henna was used on the hair and nails of the pharaohs. Once the henna plant’s cooling properties were discovered, painting the skin became a way for the desert people of India to cool down their body temperatures.
Until the art of mehndi became hot news in 1996, henna was mostly used in the United States as a hair dye. Widely recognized now as a wonderful way to dye the skin and to achieve the look of a tattoo, traditional henna uses and application processes have gone contemporary. Although some will always prepare their own henna paste, mehndi kits of varying quality, with foolproof instructions and convenient stencils, can be purchased in many retail and online outlets (including this website).
Practiced for five thousand years throughout India, Africa, and the Middle East, the act of painting the body with preparations made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant, whether it be in preparation for a special occasion or in celebration of a particular event, has always been done with the assumption or fervent wish that the act would engender good fortune, happy results, and good feelings.
Green portions of this map show areas
where henna has been used traditionally
over the centuries for ceremonies
and personal adornment.
Mehndi in India
In the north and western parts of India, the desert areas where the henna plant grows, mehndi (or henna painting) is a very important part of the wedding ritual and ceremony. As the story goes, the deeper the color obtained on the skin, the longer the love between the couple will last hence the belief that a proper mehndi application is tantamount to a prayer to the gods for everlasting love and a successful marriage.
Mehndi in Morocco
Pregnant Moroccan women in their seventh month seek out well-respected henna practitioners called hannayas in order to have certain symbols painted on their ankle, which will then be encircled with a corresponding amulet. The henna and the amulet are meant to protect both the mother and child through birth.
Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord severed, a plaster of henna, water, and flour is placed on the newborn’s belly button in order to ensure beauty and wealth.
The botanical name of the henna plant is Lawsonia inermis. A member of the Loosestrife family, henna originally comes from Egypt, a country that is still one of the main suppliers of the plant, along with India, Morocco, and the Sudan. (We have been buying our all-natural, high-quality henna powder from the same farmer since 1998!)
Henna plant (Lawsonia inermis)
Appearance of Henna
Those who have already come into contact with powdered henna are familiar with its undeniably special smell, a powerful and heady combination of earth, clay, chalk, and damp green leaves. In contrast, fresh henna leaves have no odor whatsoever, even when crushed between the fingers.
The henna flower is delicate, petite, and four-petaled, with a profusion of slender and elongated antennas bursting from the center. The red, rose, and white variations of the blossom, which also blooms yellow, cream, and pink, emit a sweet and seductive scent reminiscent of jasmine, rose, and mignonette hence the name Jamaica Mignonette, as henna is referred to in the West Indies.
Although the plant’s primary uses lie elsewhere, the flower’s oil has been used as a perfume for many centuries (although its fragrant secret has yet to be popularized in the West).
Properties of Henna
In addition to its cooling properties, several other medicinal properties are attributed to henna. It is used as a coagulant for open wounds and a poultice made with henna leaves works to soothe burns and certain types of eczema.
Its inherent soothing qualities are also part of the reason why mehndi is traditionally performed on the palms of the hands. Since the palm contains numerous nerve endings, when henna is applied to the area it helps to relax the system.
Finally, henna mixed with vinegar and applied to the head is reputed to heal headaches. Aspirin, move over!
Text for this page adapted from
Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting
by Carine Fabius
Henna – A Beginners Guide
People often question me about my henna so I thought I’d write a simple guide on how to use henna for beginners. Henna is a natural dye derived from a plant (the Lawsonia inermis, also called hini). It’s sometimes referred to as mehndi, which is the Indian word for henna. This ancient form of body art has become increasingly more popular over the last few years, in the UK.
The henna cones I use are ready made and are a dark brown paste. The paste is made from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. There is no other natural colour of henna. Some places sell what they describe as black henna. This should be avoided at all costs because in order to create the “black henna” high levels of a dangerous chemical dye is required which can lead to permanent scarring. You can read more about the risks on the NHS website.
These are the cones I use, I buy them here and they’re perfectly safe and natural.
There are many different designs you can look at for inspiration on Pinterest. I, personally, prefer to freestyle mine because I’m pretty rubbish at following instructions. I’ve been using henna for three years and I find the whole process really relaxing. It’s not so easy to do it on yourself because there’s a bit of a technique to holding the cone and applying the perfect amount of pressure for the paste flow.
How To Use Henna
When you first apply the paste, it comes out as a really dark colour. Once you’ve finished your designs (the more intricate they are and the more details you use, the better they look), it takes around 30 minutes to dry. Once it’s completely dry, the paste just flakes off in crumbs leaving your henna in an orangey/yellow colour. The next day, it turns to dark brown and lasts for a couple of weeks. I think it’s great for children during the summer holidays because it’s so pretty, it’s natural and doesn’t last too long.
If you want to remove it sooner, you can use lime juice and sugar as an exfoliant, but I’ve never had any success in completely shifting a fresh design.
Hope you find this helpful. Thanks for reading. Do check out some of my other posts. You can read about my other favourite things here.
Natural dyes are a wonderful way to learn about the hidden colors in nature. We obtain yellow and purple from exotic dye woods, red from the cochineal bug and brown from a sweet-smelling resin. Follow the easy instructions below for best results and enjoy the color journey!
Fiber Preparation and Mordanting
Your fiber should be scoured and mordanted prior to dyeing. Visit our How To pages for information on scouring and mordanting instructions for wool, alpaca, silk (protein), cotton and plant (cellulose) fibers.
Dyeing the Fibers
Calculating the amount of dye that you need can be done by first weighing the material that you want to dye. The material must be dry when you weigh it. This measurement is known as the Weight of Fiber or WOF. The amount of dye that you need is then calculated as a percentage of the WOF.
For example, an average large cotton t-shirt weighs approximately 150g. To dye it a medium brown shade with cutch, you could use 10% of the weight of the shirt (15g) of cutch. To dye it a medium brown shade with walnut hull powder, you could use 25% of the weight of the shirt (37.5g) of walnut hull powder. The following table shows general guidelines for how much of each extract you should use for various shades.
|Chestnut||Yellow||1-3% WOF||4-10% WOF||-||Combine with iron to create dark gray shades.|
|Cochineal textile grade extract||Red||0.25% WOF||0.5 - 1.5% WOF||3-4% WOF|
|Cutch||Reddish brown||2-6% WOF||7-14% WOF||15-20% WOF||For deepest shades, mix cutch with water and let it sit overnight. Simmer your goods for 2 hours. Adding soda ash at 1% WOF will redden and deepen the color.|
|Fustic||Yellow||1-2% WOF||3-4% WOF||5-10% WOF||Fustic is sold as a liquid extract.|
|Himalayan Rhubarb||Yellow||1-2% WOF||3-6% WOF||7-10% WOF||Stir well to dissolve this powder fully.|
|Indigo||Blue||0.5-1.5% WOF||2-3% WOF||4-6% WOF||Indigo uses a different process than other dyes. Use these percentages to create a vat. See vat dyeing instructions here.|
|Kamala||Yellow||1% WOF||5% WOF||10% WOF||Works best with protein fibers such as wool and silk.|
|Lac||Red||1-3% WOF||4-6% WOF||7-10% WOF||Use 3% WOF citric acid and dissolve this in water with the lac extract. Strain this mixture well to remove sediment from your dyebath.|
|Logwood||Purple||0.25-0.5% WOF||0.75-1% WOF||1.75-2.5% WOF|
|Madder||Red||0.5-2% WOF||3% WOF||4-8% WOF||Calcium carbonate at 1% WOF brings out the deep red color of madder.|
|Marigold Mix||Yellow||1-2% WOF||5-6% WOF||8-10% WOF|
|3% WOF||4-6% WOF||10-12% WOF|
|Pomegranate||Yellow||1-3% WOF||4-6% WOF||7-10% WOF|
|Premium Lac||Red||1-1.5% WOF||2-3% WOF||4-5% WOF|
|Quebracho Moreno||Yellow/ |
|1-2% WOF||3-6% WOF||7-15% WOF|
|Quebracho Rojo||Pink||1-2% WOF||3-6% WOF||7-15% WOF|
|Rich Purple Logwood||Purple||1% WOF||2% WOF||4% WOF|
|Saxon blue||Blue||1-3% WOF||5-8% WOF||10-15% WOF|
|Tannin||Beige||1-3% WOF||4-6% WOF||7-10% WOF||Very light color used to create dark browns, blacks, and grays when combined with iron or other colored tannin-based dyes, such as cutch.|
|Tara Powder||Beige||5% WOF||8% WOF||10% WOF||Very light "clear" powder that can be used in a similar manner as tannin.|
|Walnut Hull Powder||Brown||5-10% WOF||11-50% WOF||50-100% WOF||This is a powdered raw dye, not an extract, so a larger percentage of dye material is used. At the higher percentages, it is possible to reuse the sediment and create additional lighter colored dye baths with it.|
|Wattle||Tan||1-3% WOF||4-6% WOF||7-10% WOF|
|Weld||Yellow||0.25-0.75% WOF||1-2% WOF||3% WOF||Calcium carbonate at 1% WOF brings out the bright yellow color of weld.|
Make a paste using warm water and wet out the powder. Gradually add boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Some of the dyes like cutch will get quite sticky during this process. You can let these dyes sit for several hours or overnight and they will be easier to dissolve.
ADD DYES and FIBER TO THE DYE POT
Fill the dye pot with water so that the fibers move easily. Add dissolved dyes and stir well. Add mordanted fiber to the cold dye pot and begin heating the water and bring to about 90 degrees F (33 degrees C), rotating the goods gently. Hold at this warm temperature for 30 minutes, then bring the temperature up gradually to 180 degrees F (80 degrees C), rotating gently. Hold at this temperature for 30-45 minutes rotating regularly.
LETTING DYES COOL IN THE DYE POT
This is largely a preference for dyers and is based on the observation that some colors will continue to deepen during cool down. However, fibers dyed with Saxon Blue should always be removed promptly once they are cool enough so you can handle them without burning yourself.
Using the same temperature water as your fiber, rinse the dyed goods once or twice to remove excess dye, then wash gently in a neutral liquid soap. Dry away from direct sunlight.
REUSING DYE BATHS AND DISPOSAL OF DYES
Any exhaust baths with dye color left in them may be used to dye additional materials. I keep extra small skeins of mordanted wool yarn and throw those into the exhaust baths. There will usually be some residual color in the dyebath, even after using the exhaust bath. Dispose of the used dye baths in accordance with your local municipal guidelines.