Jigsaw puzzles strategies and tips

jigsaw puzzles strategies and tips

Assembling jigsaw puzzles is a pretty straightforward task… at least in theory. Anyone who has tried to take up the challenge knows that at some point frustration kicks in because it seems impossible to find the pieces you need. Fret not. There are some jigsaw puzzles strategies and tips that can help you complete the challenge with more ease.

Build up your skills in stages

Our brain likes challenges and it is natural to feel drawn to a large puzzle with more pieces than those we can take. If the puzzle ends up being too hard, then you might feel disheartened and give up on that jigsaw and even all jigsaws.

The trick is to build your skills slowly. Think about the jigsaws you used to do as a kid. They seemed so difficult back then and now you can smoothly complete them in seconds or minutes even absentmindedly.

Take it slow. If you want to complete a 3000 piece jigsaw, start with a 1000 piece one, then 1500, then 2000, and so forth. Practice makes perfect.

That being said, if you really want to do it, go for it! If time is not a problem and you can take as long as you want to piece it all together, then do it! Jigsaws are all about good-quality time by yourself, so do whatever is best for you.

Sort the pieces into small piles

Instead of rummaging through all the pieces every time you are looking for a specific one, it is better to separate them into smaller groups so your search is more efficient.

This is one of the most useful jigsaw puzzles strategies and one that you can adapt to your own style of playing. The way you separate the pieces is up to you. For example, you can pile up the pieces by color or group those that seem to form a specific section of the puzzle.

Depending on the size of the jigsaw, you might also want to use small boxes to organize the pieces and avoid mixing them up again or losing one.

Try to assemble the outer border first

Generally speaking, assembling the border of the jigsaw puzzle first is the most efficient way to proceed. 

The scale of the picture on the box can sometimes be misleading. You might be looking for a piece with a certain pattern, not realizing that the image is much bigger, for example. If that is the case, the pattern you are looking for does not exist and is instead divided among several pieces.

Starting with the board will help you realize and define your working space. It will also give you a better idea of the scale of the puzzle in real life. 

Besides, this is the easiest way to start as the pieces on the border are immediately recognizable - they are the only ones with a straight edge.

Take frequent breaks

The bigger the jigsaw, the longer it will take to complete it. Depending on your skills, even a 500 piece jigsaw can take more than 24h to complete - definitely something that you cannot (or at least, should not) do in one sitting. It may seem strange to find taking a break amid the jigsaw puzzles strategies, but it works.

Taking shorter breaks is also good to clear the mind and rest the eyes. Take a short stroll and look into the horizon to refocus your vision. 

It might surprise you to find that the piece you were frustratingly looking for before the break was in fact in front of you all the time. You were just too tired to see it.

Work by sections

Instead of spreading out your attention to the full puzzle, focusing on a small portion allows you to progress quicker. These sections can be as small as you want. For instance, you can focus on putting a face together or a flower.

Seeing an image begin to form will also motivate you to continue.

If you separate the pieces into groups, piecing together the small portions will also be easier. You can even subdivide your groups if you want to. For example, if you have a pile with pieces that will form the sky, you can break them down into smaller groups with and without clouds. 

When working by sections, try to place them more or less in their final place within the puzzle. Even if they are not connected, it will give you a better perception of the jigsaw overall.

Tips for physical jigsaw puzzles

The jigsaw puzzles strategies laid out above are valid for any kind of puzzle, whether you build it physically, online on your browser, or in a Smartphone application.

However, there are also some special tips that you should take into consideration when piecing together a traditional, physical jigsaw.

Setting your workstation

Building a jigsaw puzzle takes time and space. Ideally, you should build it somewhere where it can stay put until you finish it. If you do not have enough space to do it, consider building it over a piece of cardboard or a jigsaw mat so you can remove the puzzle to another place if necessary.

When choosing where to place your puzzle, pay attention to its dimensions. If you decide on a permanent place to build it only to find midway through it that the puzzle does not fit the surface, you will be in trouble.

Flip all pieces upwards

For puzzles with up to 500 pieces, it is feasible to flip them all upwards. This way you will have all the pieces on display and it will make it much easier to put the puzzle together.

Warning: flipping all the pieces can be an extremely boring task -  but it pays off.

If you are assembling a larger puzzle, it is best to start by sorting the pieces into small piles. Later you can divide these into even smaller portions (e.g. separate the greens of the grass from the greens of the trees) and only flip the pieces of the section you are working on.