Introduction: How to Put Together a Jigsaw Puzzle

About: Retired teacher from long ago and semi-retired graphic designer who loves the outdoors. American expat living in New Zealand for over 20 years.

Putting together jigsaw puzzles is a lot of fun. They are very inexpensive now and many public libraries have a selection for members to check out. If you haven't worked on a jigsaw puzzle before, here are some tips to help you get started.

Step 1: Basic Puzzle Pieces

Most puzzle pieces fall into several shape categories. As I haven't been able to find names for these shapes I named them.

Edge: these include corners. Edges are the easiest pieces to put together because they only have two sides to find pieces for to form the puzzle frame.

Regular: these are the most basic puzzle piece shape.

Irregular: these are regular on two sides and have one “wing”.

Double wings: these have two “wings”.

Double ears: these have two opposing tabs or ears.

Step 2: You Will Need a Flat Area to Assemble the Puzzle

The dimensions of the puzzle will be on the box. Make sure your area is bigger than the puzzle! You can use a spare table, the floor or you can purchase special jigsaw puzzle boards or felt that can be rolled up. I use a piece of plywood put on top of a coffee table. The plywood can be stowed when not in use or picked up, puzzle and all, if I want it out of the way.

Lay your pieces out and select all the edge pieces. Put them in the middle where the puzzle will be put together.

Step 3: Lay Out All of the Pieces Face Up

I use two end tables on either side of the sheet of plywood so I can lay out every piece in columns. This way I can easily scan up and down the columns to select a particular color or shape.

Step 4: Put Any Pieces That Don’t Fit on Your Work Areas on a Piece of Cardboard.

As you use pieces from around the puzzle, back-fill the holes with the overflow pieces to leave the puzzle area free of any odd pieces.

Step 5: Start With Some Easy Parts

Most puzzles will have some parts that are slightly easier than others. On this puzzle I selected the white and purple tablecloth and a red and white wall.

Put the sections together on a piece of cardboard so they can be slid into place easily.

If there is a lot of sky or any similar monochrome area I like to do that part first. It’s not the easiest part of the puzzle but good to get it out of the way.

Step 6: Words Are Usually Easy to Pick Out.

Step 7: The Striped Awning Was Another Easy Part.

Group together any pieces you think go into the same area.

Step 8: These Red and Blue Pieces Made Up a Window.

I selected all of the pieces with a blue diagonal strip to form the window. Diagonal patterns can be challenging.

Step 9: Sort Remaining Pieces Into Shapes.

Once you reach a certain point in the puzzle (depending on the puzzle that might come sooner or later), it’s time to rearrange the remaining pieces into groups of similar shapes. Make sure they are all oriented the same way.

If you place the different groups of shapes on pieces of cardboard it’s easy to turn the whole piece of cardboard around so that the pieces are oriented to the shape that needs to be filled in.

Step 10: Almost Finished …

The very end will usually be the most challenging part of the puzzle but it gets easier with each piece you put in place.

Step 11: Finished!

Stand back and enjoy your finished puzzle. It’s a good idea to store the pieces in a large zip lock bag inside the box. Pass the puzzle on to a friend or donate it to a worth cause such as the oncology ward in a hospital where people have a lot of time to kill waiting for treatment.