Everything PUZZLES: Useful Puzzle Tips and Tricks
Let's talk everything puzzles, including useful puzzle tips and tricks for you.
It’s no secret we love puzzles. Dan has been gifting me a puzzle every holiday season since we met. It was originally a gift for the winter. But then Christmas and Hanukkah puzzle time would creep into January/February if we couldn't finish it while enjoying December festivities.
When I was a kid I used to do 3D Puzzles galore. I've always loved puzzles. Our love for our home, and activities to do there while we're not traveling, has only amplified our love for puzzles. You could say we know a thing or two – or three – about them now. And we're excited to share that information with you.
Benefits of Doing Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles stimulate the brain and are wonderful for getting away from screens. They help with short-term memory by reinforcing brain cell connections and even helping form new ones. Doing puzzles today can potentially help keep Alzheimer's away tomorrow.
And staring at computer and cell phone screens all day is no good. Dan and I work on computers all…day…long. It's so nice to take our eyes off a harsh computer monitor and shift gears into solving problems of an entirely different, and low key, kind. Puzzles also improve problem-solving skills and attention to detail.
We don't have the television on when we do puzzles – we simply enjoy each other's company, perhaps an adult beverage or two, and often the sweet smell from a yummy candle. If we want “noise” on in the background we just play a little music.
Puzzles are one of our favorite things – they're so beneficial in pulling us away from our usual routine to something that requires our full attention and presence.
And whether you do it solo to treat yourself to some alone time, or do it with your partner or family, it truly brings us into the moment to simply do the task at hand. It can even help our collaboration skills and increase patience.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could do your puzzle…and have a clean table when you're not working on it? Be it your kitchen, living room coffee table or dining room table: we can all relate to not having whatever room we're working on it in kept clean when a puzzle is out.
What if there were puzzle organizational tools to help you work on your puzzle while having your home in order?
We used to do puzzles just once a year but we do them year round now. These puzzle organization tools help us enjoy our puzzles and keep our home in order.
We love this sorting tray set because you can store the trays flat when they're not in use and they're colorful. If you want interlocking, plastic ones these are a good option.
If you're like us you know the best way to do a puzzle: create the border, first, then sort the pieces by likeness of color or pattern, then do the puzzle. Or a combination of those steps in chunks of time throughout the duration of putting the puzzle together.
Puzzle trays are a godsend! They're the perfect way to keep things logically grouped as you put together your puzzle.
Puzzle Mats and Storage for When You're Still Working
Puzzle storage while you're still working on the puzzle is such an essential thing to consider. This is even more true if you live in a small apartment and have limited space. We have friends who are at home, isolated, in studio apartments and need all the space they can get! But that doesn't mean they shouldn't have the option to work on puzzles.
There's three top solutions for puzzle storage we know of that work well.
ROLLABLE PUZZLE MAT:
This is a good and affordable option. You do your puzzle on the mat then simply roll the puzzle on the felt mat when you want to store it. Secure the roll with the included velcro strips and place it in the provided drawstring bag for safe keeping until you can work on it again.
It's something you can use over and over again. Also, the felt mat helps keep things in place more than a piece of poster board would.
The mat can accommodate a puzzle up to 46″ x 26″ (about a 1,500 piece puzzle) and is only $40.
If you want the same great mat in a larger size, try this premium mat for around $50 that can accommodate a 3,000 piece puzzle, at 54 x 36″.
JIGSAW PUZZLE BOARD:
This puzzle board is the ultimate puzzle saver. It has four draws underneath it for puzzle piece storage and a hard tabletop-like surface to work.
There's even a lazy Susan option on the product so you can easily turn the board as you work on your puzzle, something you can't do with a flexible mat. You can also put two legs up to lift the board so it tilts towards you.
Puzzles We Love
Our puzzle tradition started with Dan gifting me a Disney themed puzzle for the holidays. We've kept the theme alive a few years but have added other puzzle, outside Disney, to the mix year-round. Usually our criteria is that it's 500 to 1,500 pieces, has color and is a design that appeals to us.
I love to check out the puzzles on Target too, either in person or online.
Here's some small business puzzle shops we're crushin' on over at Etsy:
- Lantern Press Artwork: They have some very cool destination puzzles, from Italy, to Hawaii, and Spain. (We spy the stained glass dome of the Opera House in Barcelona.) We also love their nature puzzles, including sea creatures, like an octopus or otter, and mushroom identification puzzle.
- The Very Good Puzzle Company: We love the brightly colored puzzles they have, which seems like they were mostly made from artists' paintings.
- AmericanFlat: There's a uniqueness to the graphic design of their puzzles. And we're especially loving the National Parks one that brings us back to our first time at Yellowstone National Park.
- Unidragon: These puzzles ship from the Ukraine because there's nothing like it in the United States. These colorful, shaped and woodcut jigsaw puzzles are magical.
Difficult and Extra Challenging 2D Options for Advanced Jigsaw Puzzle Enthusiasts
We're just blown away by all the puzzle options out there. Here's a few that we predict would give us a run for our money:
- Hologram puzzle: We know this puzzle would provide weeks of fun. And an interesting twist on constantly dealing with the changing colors of each piece! We imagine some of the associated cost of this puzzle is simply because it's extra thick and has a special hologram layer on top of it.
- Clear Puzzles: Might this be a good solution if you don't know what puzzle design you want? Seriously, though, clear acrylic puzzles are a real challenge.
- Fractal Puzzles: This entire shop is blowing our mind. We give you triple extra credit if you do one of these!
When I was in middle school I was addicted to doing 3D Puzzles. Three in particular that I recall completing with pride were:
- Cinderella's Castle from Walt Disney World
- The Empire State Building (this was a doozy – nearly all the pieces looked the same and it was about three feet tall)
- The White House.
If you want to up your puzzle game, or literally bend your mind in a different way from two-dimensional puzzles, try three-dimensional versions.
“Wrebbit” is one of the premiere brands of 3D Puzzles. Puzz3D is also another reputable brand. Wouldn't it be fun to create Downton Abbey or Winterfell from Game of Thrones? Or maybe you want to build a whole Harry Potter themed 3D Puzzle village. Now, that would be fun!
You can find some 3D puzzles on Etsy too.
There's also another type of 3D puzzle, that's really a brain teaser as well. Check out the items this Etsy shop has available.
Other Puzzle Ideas
Puzzles go beyond the jigsaws that meet the eyes. Here's some other useful puzzle tips and tricks to think beyond the box.
Sometimes puzzle manufacturers and distributors are a bit backed up on orders. (Achem, like with Coronavirus. It's been great for the puzzle industry but hard on the people fulfilling the orders.)
Our friend suggested we swap puzzles to multiply our options. We were in!
Simply find a friend who wants to swap and do a drop off and pick up at his or her house. If they're not close by, ship it. Grab a box, tape and print a prepaid label from a shipping service (like USPS, UPS or FeEx) even if you can't get out to ship. You just have to give it to your USPS mail carrier or schedule a UPS or FedEx pickup after you get a box of puzzles ready to exchange. Voila – you'll have new puzzles to work on within a few days.
Great tip: search the hashtag #PuzzleExchange on Twitter to find others wanting to do the same. Do an advanced search to narrow down the timeframe or location Twitter searches for Tweets from.
Print a Photo Puzzle
There are a few companies out there who are able to print an image on a puzzle for you. Shutterfly is one of them. Zazzle is another.
Be mindful of our important useful puzzle tip: Ensure you look at how many pieces the finished product is. It would be a little disappointing to think you are getting a 500+ piece puzzle created from your photo print only to discover it's 50 pieces you can assemble in 30 minutes.
We recently discovered a company called Create Jigsaw Puzzles.com, whose sole purpose is to create jigsaw puzzles from your designs. We love that they take you through each step to create your puzzle with ease; a key step in their process is choosing how many pieces you want your puzzle to be. Whew, crisis averted.
Want to know another GENIUS offering Create Jigsaw Puzzles has? A puzzle divided: half is with larger pieces for kids to put together and half of it is smaller pieces for the adults. Yet, everyone can work on the larger picture and solve it together! So smart. We haven't seen this anywhere else and we think the Family Large/Small Puzzle is super smart.
What should you print on your puzzle? Anything you want (that you have the rights to, of course): upload a photo, something you've painted and scanned, a child's piece of artwork, a collage, etc.
Color In a Puzzle
Did you know coloring in puzzles was a thing? You have to put it together first so keep that in mind when you're ordering 500 pieces or 1,000 piece puzzle, or another count. Black and white puzzles are sometimes the most challenging to assemble.
The best part of this kind of puzzle is that another fun craft project awaits after you put it together: Bringing your black and white puzzle to life with COLOR!
There are a variety available on Create Jigsaw Puzzles.com – scroll to the bottom of the page for more sophisticated designs. However, even some of the simpler drawings can be ordered in larger puzzle piece quantities. Some of the same designs give you the option of ordering them in 70 pieces OR 500 pieces, for example.
Nothing compares to the amazing feeling of finishing your puzzle. Dan and I always save the last piece to move into the last open spot of the puzzle together. We put our index fingers on it and click it into place. But then you have to…take it apart to pack it up. Or not!
Keep that sense of accomplishment and beauty of the puzzle in tact by keeping it in its finished state and the sum of its parts.
Glue Your Puzzle Together with Appropriate Puzzler Saver Glue
We recommend a glue that dries clear so you'll be able to see the beautiful puzzle design when it dries.
Modge Podge is white in the bottle but, from years of experience using it, it dries clear.
Another good option is good ‘ole clear Elmer's Glue.
A foam brush will work well for applying either choice. A soft paintbrush will work well too. But stay away from course brushes – they'll leave brush marks/streaks in the glue on the puzzle.
Also, be on the lookout for the glue forming very tiny “bubbles” as you apply it; all you have to do to eliminate them is go over the layer with your paintbrush while you're still applying it and it's wet.
Frame Your Puzzle
It's relatively easy to frame a puzzle as long as you follow two steps: be aware of the dimensions of your completed puzzle and have patience in the transfer to a frame.
The dimensions of your completed puzzle should be on the box it came in. Simply buy a frame that's that size.
You'll want to slide the puzzle onto the back of the frame that comes out and away from the glass, then carefully press the glass on front of it. Then flip the puzzle over, so the glass is face down on a table, enabling you to secure the backing of the puzzle into the frame with the glass in place. It definitely helps to exercise patience and have an extra set of hands for this.
You can use puzzle glue first, then put the puzzle into the frame. However, we don't recommend that as a first choice if you can do it without glue. This is simply a useful puzzle tip from experience – the glued puzzle could “stick” to the glass and not give it an evenly framed look you're desiring because of the puzzle's pressure against it.
Have fun creating your puzzles, exchanging with friends and saving some as hangable artwork.
Home and looking for more ideas for things to do? Also check out:
- What Top Travel Bloggers Appreciate About Home When They’re Not Traveling
- 25 Affordable Date Ideas for Couples At or Around Home during Social Distancing
- What to Do if You are Bored at Home: Ideas for Things to Do During Self Isolation and Home Quarantine
Good guide – where to buy puzzles.
Thank you, Robert!
Where does one go to find a previously put together jigsaw puzzle that the name, manufacturing company, nor author can be remembered? I can only remember what the puzzle looked like when finished.
Hi Kathy! That’s a tough one! If you have a photo of it you can try a Google Image Search. But if it’s only in your brain, you’d have to search through online shops. And even then, if it was a while ago, you may not be able to currently find it!
Do you have any tips for making a puzzle you’ve done countless times more interesting? And where to buy CHEAP puzzles? Hehe, I love puzzles, but sometimes I don’t feel like paying $20 for a puzzle that i’m going to enjoy a few times (But then keep doing it even though I have no interest in it just because I don’t have any other puzzles to do. lol.)
Hi Claire! The best tip we have for cheap puzzles is our tip about puzzle swapping with people or stopping at Goodwill/Salvation Army. Sometimes you get lucky! Alternatively, try looking in Marshalls or TJ Maxx in the US if you’re US based. Sometimes you get lucky! The only way we know ho to make a puzzle you’ve done many time more interesting is to put it away for at least a year and come back to it!
Do you have any tips on the best way to work a puzzle that is shaped, not a regular “box” shape?
I’m at a lost on how to start or to find the right pieces that would make the edge of the puzzle.
Hi Tami! There should still be a “flat” edge side that isn’t jigsawed for the puzzle. Even if it’s the outline for a cat, for instance, some of the pieces are still straight. It just make take a little while longer to find them! And there’s nothing wrong with using the box’s picture as a guide too.
Thanks for your comment!
I love that you mentioned how doing puzzles stimulate the brain and are wonderful for getting away from screens. My little nephew’s birthday is coming up. I’m thinking about what to get for him. I want to give him something fun, and that’s going to entertain and help his development. And so I thought about puzzles! I love them, and my sister and I used to do them as kids. Plus, you can find a puzzle about basically anything, and since my nephew is a football fan, I’m thinking about getting a football-themed puzzle. Thanks for your information about the benefits of doing puzzles!
Thanks, Eli! That’s an awesome gift and I love that you are going to get him a football puzzle. There are so many great options out there. And I love that you can do the puzzle over and over again, whether immediately after you finish or months later!