7 Expert Tips & Tricks for Difficult Jigsaw Puzzles

7 Expert Tips & Tricks for Difficult Jigsaw Puzzles


You've been toiling over a tricky puzzle for a long time, and you're feeling frustrated and close to giving up. No matter what you try, the pieces just don't seem to fit together. But don't give up! All avid puzzlers will encounter this situation at least once in their lives.

A puzzle that seems impossible to conquer drains your time and energy. But no puzzle is truly unsolvable—you just need to persevere and use the right techniques. To help you conquer that complex puzzle once and for all, here are seven expert tips and tricks for difficult jigsaw puzzles. Follow these tips and you'll have a finished masterpiece in no time.


Optimize Your Workstation

The first thing you'll want to do is ensure your workstation is optimal for puzzling. Do you have enough room to spread out your pieces? If not, consider moving over to a roomier surface. Is the surface you're working on cluttered? If so, tidy it up. Otherwise, you could wind up skimming over or even losing pieces hidden within the hodgepodge.

How's the lighting of the room you're working in? Too much or too little lighting can make it hard to see the colors and images on the puzzle pieces. If the room you're in is too bright, consider closing curtains or moving to a shadier spot. If the room you're in is too dark, open the curtains or turn on some lights. A small, cordless desk lamp that you can set beside you and move around as needed is ideal. By making small adjustments to your workstation, you can make assembling your puzzle much easier and less stressful.

Dump & Sort

You've probably already dumped your puzzle out of the box, but have you taken the time to sort the pieces? If not, it can be extremely helpful to do so.

Start by flipping all pieces picture side up. Next, start by arranging your pieces into a few core groups. The first way you should divide your pieces is based on whether they're a corner or center piece. Once you've divided your pieces into these two groups, separate them further by arranging them into groups based on pattern and color. All red pieces should go in one group, while all polka-dotted pieces should go in another.

To give you a better idea of how to group your puzzle pieces, here's an example. Let's say you have a puzzle that features a quaint, snow-covered town on an overcast day. Your pattern and color groups may look something like this:

  • Pieces that are white (snow)
  • Pieces that are gray (the sky)
  • Pieces with trees in them
  • Pieces with people in them
  • Pieces with homes in them

Start With the Border

Once you've divided your pieces into corner/center and color/pattern groups, you can start arranging your puzzle. Most puzzle pros prefer to start with the border.

Puzzle pieces feature two kinds of ends—tabs and blanks. Tabs are ends that protrude outward, and blanks are ends that recede inward. To connect two puzzle pieces together, you need to fit a tab end into a blank end. Border pieces have one to two ends that don't have a tab or blank, which makes them easy to pick out of a pile and connect. Doing the border first creates solid groundwork that will make piecing together the rest of your puzzle simpler.

Pay Attention To the Shapes

Colors and patterns aren't the only things you should pay attention to. You should also look closely at the shape of your pieces. Puzzle pieces come in a variety of shapes, but most fall under one of five categories: edge, regular, irregular, double wings, and double ears. Edge pieces, also known as corner or border pieces, have one or more flat edges. Regular pieces have two perpendicular tabs and two perpendicular blanks. Irregular pieces also have two tabs and two blanks, but these tabs and blanks aren't straight across from each other. Double wing pieces have three blanks, while double ears have three tabs.

By paying close attention to the shape of each piece, you'll have a much easier time figuring out which pieces can potentially fit together, and which ones definitely won't.

Focus on Small Sections

Focusing on one section of the puzzle at a time is much easier than working on multiple sections at once. Choose one of your previously made groups to work on. Once you've connected as many pieces as you possibly can from that pile, move onto the next group, and then the next group, until you run out of pieces to connect!

Take Breaks

If you're feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, don't force yourself to power through. Stepping away for a while can help you relax, gather your thoughts, and reorient yourself. When you come back to your puzzle, you'll feel clear-minded and be able to think things through calmly and rationally.

Remember—you don't have to do an entire puzzle in one sitting! Take as much time as you need, whether that's a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, or longer.

Once You're Done

With these seven expert tips and tricks for difficult jigsaw puzzles under your belt, you can finish your puzzle in no time flat!

Just put the final piece in place? Congrats! Now that you're done, you have a few options. You can take your puzzle apart so you can do it again in the future. You can also glue the puzzle together and proudly frame it. Difficult puzzles take a lot of time and effort to complete, which makes framing and displaying them in your home meaningful and fulfilling.

Now that you've got the technique for solving tricky puzzles down pat, why not challenge yourself with another puzzle? MasterPieces has high-quality 1000-piece puzzles for sale that are just the right level of difficulty. For puzzles, board games, and more, shop with us today! We have a variety of fun activities to choose from, so you're sure to find something you love.