Before You Get StartedBefore you just jump into your puzzle experience, we have some preliminaries. We’ll make it quick since we know your attention span is super short.
Pick a Puzzle that Makes You Happy
Obvious, right? It’s all about the warm fuzzies. Ask yourself, “Do I even like this puzzle?” Does the image, as Marie Kondo would say, spark joy?
- Make Sure It’s Not Too Challenging
If you haven’t puzzled much before, look for something around 250-500 pieces. And be sure to look for something with lots of bright colors and defined lines.
- Choosing Your Space
If you’re tight on space or are doing your puzzle on a coffee table or dining table, resist the urge to dump all your puzzle pieces onto your working surface. You’ll need that space for sorting your puzzle pieces.
How to Solve a Jigsaw Puzzle
Now you’re ready for our expert, step by step tips on how to solve a jigsaw puzzle. These tips are intended for puzzle newbies or anyone who finds jigsaw puzzles hard to solve. Piece Out's tips and tricks will make solving your next jigsaw puzzle easier and way more fun.
Part 1: Where to Begin
Sorting Borders & Middles
Grab a handful of puzzle pieces at a time and sort the pieces into two groups, one group is for border pieces and the other group is for middles. As you sort the pieces into these two groups there are a few things you’ll want to do which will make your puzzling process much easier down the road.
Image Side Up
As you sort your pieces, lay each puzzle piece image side up. After sorting through all your pieces the last thing you’ll want to do is go back to your pile just to flip over half your pieces later.
Lay Pieces in a Single Layer
Spread out your puzzle pieces as much as you can. I keep referring to these as piles, but if you have the space try not to overlap your pieces. Ideally after you’re all done sorting, each piece will be clearly visible when you start connecting pieces. If you’re short of space this may not be possible. That’s OK too. Just do your best to layer pieces as little as possible.
Rotate Border Pieces As You Sort
For now, rotating only pertains to your border pile. As you sort the border pieces from the middles, place each border piece edge side down. Don’t stress about which edge to use for the corner pieces. It doesn't matter. Once you’ve rotated all the edges, you'll be looking at all your pieces from a singular perspective which will make it way easier to quickly spot the very important similarities in color and pattern.
Completing Your Border
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, “start with the edges.” If you’re new to puzzling, looking to increase your speed, or if you just don’t consider yourself a puzzle person, a completed puzzle border is going to make your puzzle experience much more relaxing. That’s because a completed border creates a tidy frame to work within and allows you to gauge where pieces should be placed once you start making connections. You’ll see this in action a few steps ahead. For now let’s focus on your border pieces.
Keep Those Edges Down
Keep your pieces arranged edge side down as you begin connecting border pieces. Connect, connect, connect. Keep going until you have a few very long rows of connected pieces and maybe a few stragglers. At this point go ahead and turn those long rows to their rightful position and connect. Wha-la!, your border is done!
*Rotating puzzle pieces is a crucial step in becoming a master puzzler. It’s the step that will make completing your puzzle border a cinch and will make life much easier later on when you are knee deep in the hardest part of your puzzle.
Beware of cute puppies innocently playing nearby as you puzzle. Cute puppies love puzzles too. See evidence of puppy destruction.
Part 2: The Puzzle Loop - Gather, Connect, Place
Unless you’re doing a torturous solid color jigsaw puzzle, every jigsaw puzzle has a few areas of bold color or pattern which immediately catch your eye. Let’s start there.
Scan over your pile of middles, choose whichever color or pattern stands out the most as you scan. Gather every single piece you can find that shows even the slightest bit of that standout color or pattern. Lay those pieces down inside your completed puzzle border–image side up of course. These are the pieces you’re going to connect first.
What to Gather
The easiest parts of a puzzle to complete are areas with a sudden change in the artwork. I like to refer to these as Anchor Points. For example, in Cuddle Puddle, some of the most distinct anchor points are where the colorful background meets the model’s skin. The artwork on these pieces have high contrast, making them easier to spot. Other Anchor Points could be distinct lines, object edges, or sudden changes in pattern or color. Here are a few examples.
Look at the small group of pieces you just laid out inside your tidy puzzle border. Now focus on the color/pattern/image of each piece and start connecting your pieces. Make all the connections you can from the pieces you’ve gathered.
This process is always easier in the beginning, while you still have all the most bold and obvious pieces to choose from. It gets much harder as you continue on.
If none of your pieces connect, go back to your pile of middles and try to gather any additional pieces you may have missed. Then lay those pieces inside your puzzle frame and try again.
Once you’ve connected as many pieces as you can it’s time to put them where they belong.
Now it’s time to reference the image of your puzzle. Look at the artwork on the connections you just made and find that part of the artwork within your reference image. Once you’ve found it, look at where your piece lines up within the border. Use the horizontal and vertical placement to guestimate where your connected pieces should be placed. Just think of the game battleship or how people used to read paper maps in the olden days before navigation and google maps.
Place your connected pieces where they line up with the border. Don’t worry about the placement being totally exact. No matter how spot on you think you are, you’ll end up adjusting the pieces as you make progress on your puzzle.
Every time you make connections you’ll come back to this step to place the connection within your puzzle border.
The Puzzle Loop: Gather, Connect, Place
I called these steps The Puzzle Loop because you’re going to keep doing these three steps, Gather, Connect, Place, over and over again, until there are no more contrasting pieces left. You’ll know you’re ready to move on when all your pieces pretty much look the same and none of your pieces have any identifiable marks.
Part 3: The Hardest Part
If you’ve repeated the above steps times infinity, you should no longer see any easily distinguishable colors or patterns in your now much smaller pile of middles.
Congratulations! Your puzzle is taking shape but also, you just reached the hard part. This is the moment where puzzlers do the long exhale. All the easy pieces have been placed and all that’s left is a not so fun looking pile of similarly colored pieces that, basically, all look the same.
It’s time to change your method. Solving your puzzle just became a game of minecraft. Endless puzzle pecking is no fun. Pecking is what I call when you randomly try to fit a single piece into every possible connection with no strategy in mind. Pecking can quickly make you lose interest in your beautiful jigsaw puzzle.
In Cuddle Puddle, the largest area of color with the least amount of variation is the skin, making it the hardest part of the puzzle. If you’re working on Cuddle Puddle, this will without a doubt be the area you’ll have left to complete at the very end.
Organized Sorting + Rotating
The best way to tackle these painfully similar final pieces is to sort your remaining pieces by a few different criteria. Taking the time to sort these pieces will help tremendously in your quest to completion.
Sort by Shape
There are generally 6-7 different shapes of puzzle pieces. 0’s, 1’s, 2A’s, 2B’s, 3’s, 4’s, and Randoms. Sort your remaining pieces into groups based on the shape of each piece. Finish sorting all your remaining pieces by shape before moving on.
Line Up by Color
Next, take each group one at a time, and line up the pieces by gradient. Find whatever variation in color/pattern/texture exists in that group and sort them accordly.
The final step is to rotate the pieces within each group until they are facing the same direction. This is just like you did way back at the beginning of your puzzle.
One Piece At a Time
This final phase takes the most patience and can definitely feel tedious. With your pieces sorted by shape and color you have a few different ways to identify connections. Search for a specific piece to fill a specific empty space in your puzzle. Let’s take a look at what I mean.
Narrow Down Your Options
Zero in on one empty spot in your puzzle and consider which of the shapes could work in that space. From there, narrow it down by color/pattern/texture. This method takes a bit of getting used to but once you get it going you’ll be conquering those final pieces in no time.
Slow and Steady Finishes the Puzzle
Just keep going. One piece at a time. You got this!