Introduction: Make Your Own Puzzle

Picture of Make Your Own Puzzle

Paintings and photos are fun, but you know what's more fun? PUZZLES!

If you have a laser cutter, it is really easy to make art into puzzles.

I found the art for my puzzles at a flea market and on the street, but you could use any art for this project. If you are a painter this is also a great way to make a personalized puzzle for a friend or family member.

Step 1: Design

Picture of Design

I used Illustrator to design two simple puzzle patterns. Since the patterns are vectors in Illustrator it is easy to scale them to the size of the painting in question. Also, with a few simple manipulations it is pretty easy to add unique rows of pieces. I have attached an illustrator file with two puzzle designs in it. Feel free to use either or edit one to make a new design.

Step 2: Prepare

Picture of Prepare

Some paintings are conveniently painted on thick cardboard or plywood, but more frequently they will be on paper or canvas. If this is the case, you can use spray adhesive to attach the art to a more appropriate backing.

Step 3: Cut

Picture of Cut

I suggest scaling the file in Illustrator so that it is at least 1/4 inch away from each edge of the painting. This way you can be sure that the edges of the puzzle do not extend farther than the painting and all the edges of the pieces will match.

Set the laser cutter to something a bit stronger than you would if you were just cutting the backing material and you are ready to hit the go button.

Step 4: Play

Picture of Play

It's puzzle time! Get your rainy day face on and start finding edge pieces, because this might take a while.

Big thanks to all the anonymous artists who's work I used for this project.

If you painted any of the paintings (especially the one in the video) let me know. I am really curious about who that guy is. Some of my friends think its Leonardo Dicaprio, but it's impossible to tell for sure.


starforest (author)2015-04-20

If the artwork was engraved on wood would the burning of the laser though it interfere with the artwork? I didn't see that with your puzzle but it wasn't wood.

Technoaussie (author)starforest2017-04-11

Lasers powerful enough to cut wood will burn the edges. That's what they do to cut. Burn their way through whatever it is you cut.

violingirl (author)starforest2015-04-20

If you set the cutting width as hairline it would barley interfere with your picture.

starforest (author)violingirl2015-04-21

What does barley have to do with it?

violingirl (author)starforest2015-04-21

Like I said, I don't think barley would interfere with your picture unless you sprinkled some on top of your picture before laser cutting it.

starforest (author)violingirl2015-04-22

Never thought of putting barley on my picture.

CobyUnger (author)starforest2015-04-22

OK starforest, clearly violingirl meant barely. Lets all be nice.

starforest (author)CobyUnger2015-04-23

It was just a joke. I knew she meant barely.

I didn't mean any harm.

violingirl (author)starforest2015-04-24

I was joking too after I misspelled barely.

I would be cool if you put something like pebbles on top of a piece of wood then you engraved the whole piece of wood so where the pebbles were the wood wouldn't be engraved and there would be a cool pattern on the piece of wood.

janaboo13 (author)2015-04-21

This is awesome! Since I don't have a laser cuter, however, it would be difficult to accomplish. What kind of laser cutter did you use? Where does one get one? Are their services available to do this kind of work? Thanks!

CobyUnger (author)janaboo132015-04-21

Thanks. I used an Epilog laser cutter. It is a really great tool, but also quite expensive. I recommend looking around in your area for laser cutter services. They are getting more common and less expesnive every day.

DouglasJ1 (author)CobyUnger2015-04-21

You must be on a different planet to me Coby. I just priced getting an srA3 (roughly13"x19") jigsaw cut after I had vacuum mounted (oh yeah, I've got one of these I made 20 years ago) a photo to a 1.6mm board and they said it would cost $45... If I ordered 10 of them. For one they wanted an extra $23 for setting up the cut.

When I queried the price they told me it cost them over $89,000 for the laser and they have to get a return on that investment. In any case... It would be 3 weeks before they could 'slot it in'. I thought that statement quite ironic given what I wanted cut. A similar size jigsaw at ToysRus is $19.99

I really love this site. The ingenuity of people who make really useful products from scrap (IE the pallet items) is nothing short of amazing. Showing us what we can do with equipment we will never in a million years be able to afford really is no more or less a demonstration the manufacturers of the Laser should be paying you to produce. No one here has an Epilog in their cupboard waiting for casual use... Well no one I know at any rate.

Marvin2843 (author)DouglasJ12015-04-24

One of our library branches has a design/innovation center with a laser cutter and a couple of 3D printers. You have to take a course first to learn to use it then you can book time there. So this instructable is useful for those in my area. Others may have access to similar equipment in their area.

There also instructables on here that require all kinds of electronics know how or advanced woodworking tools the average person doesn't own...well no one I know at any rate.

Let's all be supportive like the be nice policy says.

CobyUnger (author)Marvin28432015-04-26

The be nice policy is one of the most important parts of Instructables. Thanks for helping keep it strong.

DouglasJ1 (author)CobyUnger2015-04-26

I'm surprised you see my truthful reply as "not nice". The reality of life is that if you need a $50,000 machine to make a product described here or, it costs 4 times the price of buying a ready made jigsaw that you could stick an inkjet print over and cut the pieces out with razor blade, I happen to believe readers ought to know that your statement of getting one laser cut genuinely needs correction.

I actually went to the trouble of following your instructions only to discover the "getting cheaper every day" statement you made couldn't be further from the truth. After discovering the cost of getting one cut was close to what I live on for a week, I decided not to disappoint my grandson and printed a second one, stuck it on a bought jigsaw and cut around the shapes (4 hours).

I agree entirely that "keep it nice" is a great idea. So is "keep it truthful" when telling people if they look around they are sure to find someone who will cut if for them. I sure found one who would so my "Keep it nice and truthful" policy kicked in and I told you.

I'm truly sorry if you feel my telling others what I found when I attempted to engage my grandson in a joint project we could do together: Follow your instructable, made you and JamesK8 think I was not being nice... But neither was the boy's reaction when together we went to get his drawing cut into a jigsaw, turned to total disappointment at the cost.

Had both of you just let it go, no one else appears to think a truthful comment was not nice. To satisfy you and JamesK8, I'll report myself and see what the moderator thinks is nice or not nice. That should end it once and for all.

Whiteraven2011 (author)DouglasJ12017-04-10

Hello Douglas J1, I am researching a cutter as I am a hobby artist and I want to try make personalized puzzles as part of a start-up business. I always go on forums so I could find feedback from others and prefer truthful accountings and descriptions of potential challenges. I find your comments valuable and thank you for that :)

CobyUnger (author)DouglasJ12015-04-22

I'm sorry you feel so negatively about this instructable. I try to use the tools I have access to in new and creative ways and encourage people to make more things rather than buying them.

amev616 (author)CobyUnger2015-04-27

I don't find DouglasJ1's comment(s) any 'overtly negative', it was more 'constructive' than anything. Because, it's true that not everybody has an access to a laser cutter or laser cutting services at affordable rates. You can't expect everybody to appreciate your contribution the same way(the way you would like). Some without an access to right tools, let alone a space to work, would still appreciate and admire your project(s) AND make such comments as DouglasJ1's. I used to be lucky with laser cutters when I was at uni, after that not so much. It's still a huge investment to make if you'd want one for yourself, and not very affordable to hire, or just to use the machine - although it depends on the area/part of the world you live in.

janaboo13 (author)CobyUnger2015-04-21

Thanks for getting back to me! I did look online right after I emailed and was surprised at the high cost of these machines....I'll look around. What kind of places might have these, do you know? I'm in the Seattle area. Thank, again.

CobyUnger (author)janaboo132015-04-22

Looks like the Sodo Makerspace has a laser cutter.

janaboo13 (author)CobyUnger2015-04-23

Thanks Coby!! I'm going to check this out.

CobyUnger (author)janaboo132015-04-26

Great! I hope you make some awesome stuff.

Hannahhoo (author)janaboo132015-04-24

Sometimes you can find community laser cutters for hire. But they aren't that common...

HaraldS (author)2015-04-27

I used to cut them with a number 1 or 2 blade (very fine ones) with my scrollsaw. Since they
were used as gifts I included special pieces like year of birth or the
year I made it. You can make very different shapes of pieces, the only
thing to care about when designing them yourself is to take ensure that they interlock
correctly, so the puzzle doesn't fall apart.

DouglasJ1 (author)2015-04-27

Well well, well. I've never been negative about doable projects. I just love this site and what it represents. For some reason jigsaw puzzles are coming back into vogue.

I just found Jigsawpuzzles is selling on-line an iron on 'kit' using self-adhesive tissue that you just pull apart after ironing on the picture you print it's a little over $15! All you people who can't find or afford a Laser cutter, might consider this alternative.

I've just ordered one and my grandson is brimming with joy at the prospect of making an instructable with me on how to make an iron on jigsaw puzzle.

I'm sure I'll find somewhere, someone selling jigsaw 'blanks' and just maybe that 'iron on' stuff you get for Tshirts can be ironed on to one. Give us a week or three and maybe we'll have one to show you.

RadDog2 (author)2015-04-27

There are many community based Maker spaces around the world where you can for a nominal fee learn and cut a project like this. The return on investment would more than pay for the construction if you did just a few and sold them. Lasers like this do not cost 50K. A maker space is great way to access a laser. A local one in my city charges $55 a month and a small fee per hour of lasing time. You can make quite a few in a short amount of time. It is no longer an exotic tool.

JayGeeBSE (author)2015-04-25

In my area of Suffolk UK a charity paid for every upper school to have a laser cutter, and I know it's not unusual elsewhere in UK. You might try your persuasive powers on a Design & Technology teacher. However some are reluctant to cut card and wood as they say the smoke damages the mirrors. We usually cut Perspex - I suppose you could use that as your jigsaw base.

CobyUnger (author)JayGeeBSE2015-04-26

Usually, it is easy to clean the mirrors on a laser cutter with cotton swabs and peroxide or alcohol. If that is not an option, I am sure using a plastic backing on the puzzle would also work

Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)2015-04-22

I have to agree with the majority of the other comments, having an instructable that is entirely about "pressing go" on a piece of equipment that the majority of people won't have access too should not be on the home page. Sure if you're in The Bay Area(Instructables HQ) there are maker spaces every few blocks but for the rest of the planet they are very difficult to find. There are no alternatives given, and no set up instructions for the machine itself(even if you had someone willing to let you use one), the photos are well composed but aside from that I don't see why this should make it on the homepage. Please consider your audience. Thanks.

I'm sorry you feel so negatively about seeing instructables about laser cutting on the home page. I noticed that you go to the University of British Colombia, and according to their website there is a laser cutter in the architecture department. Also, there is significant discussion among a group of makers in the Okanagan area about getting a laser cutter. It was hard to determine if this actually happened or not, but if you are interested in doing a project that requires laser cutting I suggest reaching out to that group (

Thank you for the very nice reply:)
That is very helpful. I do not object to the use of laser cutters in instructables, they are a great tool(or so I'm told), I just wish there was something more to this instructable, alternate methods, something a bit more in depth I guess. Thanks for your very professional reply. I hope you have a great time working at(with?) instructables and produce some cool projects.

No problem. Keep on making cool stuff.

Sorry came off more negative than I meant to be.

nanaverm (author)2015-04-21

Before cutting the picture, take a good photo of it. That will give clues if one is stumped on how to assemble it.

CobyUnger (author)nanaverm2015-04-22

That would be a good idea. I definitly should have done that.

omikeo (author)2015-04-21

how deep can the cutter cut ? what's the thickest backing material i could use ? nice job, thanks, mike

CobyUnger (author)omikeo2015-04-22

It depends on the laser cutter you have access too. The epilog I was using can go up to 1/4 inch or a little more, but I've seen some cut 3/4 inch plywood.

e5frog (author)2015-04-21

Simple as 1, 2, 3 - I just glue it to a piece of plywood and put it in my laser cutter... something no home should be without. What's up next how we CNC a motor block in aluminium?

tantris (author)e5frog2015-04-21

Using sharpened bands of hardened steel you could just use a car-body press to make cutting stripes for the puzzle-form you want. You then press out the pieces using your bearing-press. The stripes have to be embedded in some carrier though. But if you don't have access to a zinc-injection molding, you could get by with a 3d-printer.

I love these!

Thanks Danger!

XTL (author)2015-04-21

You can also use Inkscape and this plugin to create ones of any size.

CobyUnger (author)XTL2015-04-21

Wow, cool!

jeggyboy (author)2015-04-21

Very nice and a good idea.

It would be nice to know where to get a laser cutter though..

CobyUnger (author)jeggyboy2015-04-21

There are private laser cutter services located in many cities. You can also find them at maker spaces like TechShop.

highlander007 (author)2015-04-21

That is a great work. But please enlighten me a bit. What is the name and model of laser machine you used for the cutting. Am in Ghana and I want to purchase one.

About This Instructable




Bio: I build, I teach, I learn. Happiest when covered in saw dust, sweat and machine grease. Visit for more projects and info.
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