This guide is intended to help individuals who have never solved a Rubik's Cube to complete the puzzle. While there are more advanced algorithms in existence to may yield a faster overall solve time, this set of instructions is commonly recognized as one of the more beginner-friendly methods of solving the Rubik's Cube.
Step 1: Learn the Faces and Their Shorthand Notation
Consider the shape of the Rubik's Cube. It has 6 sides, and they will be labeled according to their orientation relative to your perspective. What this means is that the sides are labeled as:
Forward Face (F): The face of the cube pointed directly at you.
Back Face (B): The face of the cube pointed directly away from you; directly opposite the F face.
Up Face (U): The face of the cube pointed directly up.
Down Face (D): The face of the cube pointed directly down, opposite the U face.
Left Face (L): The face of the cube pointed directly left in the current orientation.
Right Face (R): The face of the cube pointed directly right in the current orientation, directly opposite the L face.
For the sake of brevity, we will use the above shorthand notation when referring to the cube's faces in future steps.
Step 2: Learn the Shorthand for Turn Directions
In essence, you can turn any layer of the Rubik's Cube in one of two directions: Clockwise or Counterclockwise. In short, we refer to the face we are going to be rotating and then briefly call out the direction as such:
X for a clockwise rotation, or
X' for a counterclockwise rotation, where X is one of the 6 sides previously detailed.
This means we have 12 basic rotations:
Up Face - U or U'
Down Face - D or D'
Forward Face - F or F'
Back Face - B or B'
Left Face - L or L'
Right Face - R or R'
Additionally, if there is a number in front of a rotation, that means you need to turn that side of the Rubik's Cube that number of times. For instance, to carry out a 2F rotation, you will rotate the front face 90° clockwise twice, for an end result of a 180° rotation clockwise.
You can refer to the above pictures if you are having trouble with the shorthand rotation notation.
Step 3: Learn How to Refer to Specific Squares
We can call out a specific square by using the shorthand face notation. Say we want to call out the square in the front face, in the bottom right corner. We can describe this square as:
F: Start at the front face
D: Go to the bottom layer in the previously referred to (in this case, F) face.
R: Go to the right most square in the previously described (in this case, FD) row.
The square in this current orientation is "FDR".
The above picture has some random squares labeled for you, by studying this picture you can start to make sense of the nomenclature.
Step 4: Other Facts About the Rubik's Cube
1. Consider the center square on each face. When the Rubik's Cube is solved, the entire side will match the color of the center square.
2. Certain pairs of center squares (and by default, certain pairs of colored faces) will always be opposite to one another.
a. White will always be opposite to Yellow
b. Blue will always be opposite to Green
c. Orange will always be opposite to Red
Step 5: Orient the Cube Properly
To start, we want to have the face with the white center square in the U position.
Step 6: Form a White "Plus Sign" on the U Face
This step is what it sounds like. Now that we have the white center square in the U face, we want to have a white square on each of the edge pieces on the U face, similar to the picture shown above. This resulting pattern resembles a plus sign (as opposed to an X). This means we are not yet concerned with the corner squares.
Step 7: Orient the Top Layer Correctly
Now that our plus sign has been established, we want to rotate the U face so that the non-white edge squares line up with the centers on the L, R, F, and B faces. Keep in mind that yellow should be on the D face, so here we want to align the blue edge with the blue center, the red edge with the red center, the green edge with the green center, and the orange edge with the orange center. The result at the end of this stage should look like the picture above.
If you cannot simply turn the U face to achieve this end result, the following procedure can be used to get there:
1. Turn the whole cube so one of the incorrect edges is on the front face, then apply F2. One white edge should now be on the D face (look at it). Note the other color of that white edge; this color is X (it could be red, green, orange, yellow, or blue). Now rotate the D face until the X part of the edge piece is directly beneath the X center; then rotate the X face 180 degrees.
2. Now the white/X edge should have returned to the U face and another edge piece should be on the D face (look at it). The edge piece should have white on the bottom, then the color connected to it is called color Y. Now rotate the D face until the Y edge piece is directly beneath the Y center, then rotate the Y face 180 degrees.
3. You should now have a white plus sign on the top, and all the edge pieces are above centers of the same color. Don't forget to keep white on the U face.
Step 8: Complete the Top Layer
At the end of this stage, we should have the top layer complete, resembling the picture above. This means that now we want to put the white corners in their proper positions. We will go about this in the following way:
1. Locate a piece with a white corner square in the bottom layer. This white corner square will be in one of 3 positions, and there is a specific set of moves for each location. Note the three colors of the corner piece. They should be white, then two other colors, colors "A" and "B". Now rotate the D face until the white/A/B corner piece is between the A and B center pieces (note that we move it between the A and B centers because the colors of the piece are A and B). Turn the cube so the white/A/B corner piece is in the DFR position.
a. If the white square is in the FDR position (i.e. on the front face): apply F D F'
b. If the white square is in the RFD position (i.e. on the right face): R' D' R
c. If the white square is in the DFR position (i.e. on the down face) :apply F D2 F' D' F D F'.
2. If you have a white corner square in the top layer, turn the cube so the corner is in the UFR position, then apply F D F'. Now it is in the D face so you can put it in using the combinations above.
Step 9: Solve the Middle Layer
Find an edge piece in the D face that does NOT have Yellow in it. Look at the square on this edge piece that is on the D face; this is color "X". Look at the other color of the edge piece; this will be color "Y". Rotate the whole cube on its vertical axis so that the face with the "X" center square is on the F face. Now rotate the D face until the X/Y edge piece is in the DB position.
From here there are two possibilities:
1. If color Y matches the center of the R face, use this combination: F D F' D' R' D' R.
2. If color Y matches the center of the L face, use this combination: F' D' F D L D L'.
If an edge is in the right place but the colors just need to switch sides, turn the cube so the edge piece is in the FR position while still keeping the white face on top; apply F D F' D' R' D' R (this is the same as the first possibility above). Now you can put it in using the above combinations.
Repeat this step until the top two layers are complete.
Step 10: Make a "Plus Sign" on the Yellow Face
Re-orient the cube over so the face with the Yellow Center Square is on the U face; it will stay this way until the cube is solved. Note the number of yellow edges on the U face. From here there are four possibilities:
1. Two opposite edges. Rotate the U face until the two edges are in the UL and UR positions, making a horizontal line. Apply B L U L' U' B'.
2. Two adjacent edges. Rotate the U face until the two edges are in the UR and UF positions, making an arrow that points to the back-left. Apply B U L U' L' B'.
3. No edges. Apply one of the above combinations to kick two edges to the top, then use the other combination to put the other two edges in place.
4. Four edges: If this is the case, you are ready to move on to the next step.
At the end of this step, you should have a yellow plus sign, just like the white one made in the first step.
Step 11: Complete the Yellow Face
Re-orient the Rubik's Cube so that the face with the Blue center square is your F face, keeping the Yellow Face as your U Face. Rotate the Yellow face until an unfinished (yellow not on the U Face) corner is in the UFR position.
You will now face one of two cases:
If the Yellow Square is on the F face, use this combination: F D F' D' F D F' D'.
If the Yellow Square is on the R face, use this combination: D F D' F' D F D' F'.
Keeping blue as your front face, rotate the U face to bring another unfinished corner to the UFR position, then use the proper combination from above. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Do not worry if the cube looks disorganized after you've finished a corner. Once this step is carried out to completion, the cube will revert to a more organized look naturally.
After this step is over, the entire yellow face should be finished.
Step 12: Correctly Position the Final Edge Pieces
The key combination for this step is:
R2 D' R' L F2 L' R U2 D R2
1. Rotate the U face until at least one edge piece matches the color of the center it touches.(If this is not possible, apply the key combination and try again.)
2. Turn the cube so this matched edge/center square pair is on the left face. Confirm that the front edge matches the center color on the right face. If it doesn't, then apply U2 and turn the whole cube counter-clockwise 90 degrees. Then re-confirm that the cube meets the criteria (left edge matches the left center, and the front edge matches the right center).
3. Apply the key combination.
If you can line up all four edge pieces with their respective centers, do so and skip to the final step.
At this point, the cube should be finished except for the corners.
Step 13: Complete the Cube
For this step, the Rubik's Cube should be almost complete, with only a couple mismatched corner pieces. The key combination we will be using in this step is:
L2 B2 L' F' L B2 L' F L'
You will now either face one of two situations.
a) If you already happen to have at least one corner in the correct spot, turn the cube so that a correct corner is in the FUR position. Then utilize the above combination as many times as necessary to complete the cube.
b) If there are no correct corners, apply the above combination randomly. After one or more times of using this combination, eventually you will have the correct orientation of squares. Then you can go back to part a.
Congratulations, you have completed the Rubik's Cube! You can re-scramble the puzzle and start over to perfect your technique.