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Tips & Tricks on How to Do a Jigsaw Puzzle: Step-by-Step Puzzle Strategy

Tips & Tricks on How to Do a Jigsaw Puzzle: Step-by-Step Puzzle Strategy


Solving puzzles is one of life’s many rewarding pastimes that’s both relaxing and mentally engaging. When you begin, you may be tempted to dive right in and put pieces together as you find matches in no particular order. While this approach may work for puzzles with lower piece counts, it spells certain frustration for more complex jigsaws with lots of pieces.

Taking the time to solve a puzzle strategically will ultimately make the process more stress-relieving and cognitively beneficial than going in without a plan. To make the most of your puzzling experience, we’ve put together some tips and tricks for how to start a jigsaw puzzle.

Puzzles are perfect for people of any age, considering the diversity of jigsaw themes, sizes, and even shapes. So get your puzzle, puzzle accessories, and thinking cap ready, it’s time to talk strategy!

Step 1: Pick Your Puzzle Strategy Before You Start

There are a few steps to take before opening up the puzzle box and getting to work. If it’s been a while since you last solved a jigsaw puzzle, fear not! It can seem overwhelming at first (especially if you’re working with 1,000 or more pieces!) but sticking to these guidelines for how to solve a puzzle will help you complete yours in a timely and efficient manner.

Are you wondering how to start a jigsaw puzzle? The first step is to get everything set up. This includes making sure you have good lighting, plenty of space, and even some snacks handy

Choose Your Puzzle and Work Area

Select your puzzle and workspace if you haven’t already. Choose a jigsaw puzzle that appeals to your imagination and will be a close match to your skill level. Explore puzzle themes at Bits and Pieces such as scenic landscapes, the four seasons, holidays, wildlife and farm animals, city scenes, and more. Your puzzle strategy will be similar for most types of jigsaws, though will require more preparation time the bigger they are. 

If you’re new to puzzling and are looking for something on the easier side, start with 100 piece jigsaw puzzles or 300 piece jigsaw puzzles to get your feet wet. For puzzling veterans, try 750 piece or 1,000 piece puzzles with complex image designs sure to keep you busy for hours. In any case, keep in mind that bigger puzzles will take longer to complete.

Next, find the appropriate place to work. You don’t want to empty the puzzle box onto a table only to realize that you’ll have to move it, or don’t have enough space! The kitchen table can work, though pieces may go missing if moved around frequently to accommodate people eating or asking why you’re doing a puzzle while they’re trying to have lunch.

Make life easier by using a puzzle table for your next project. It keeps your jigsaw in a discreet, transportable area and features borders that keep pieces from falling and getting lost.

Step 2: How to Start Your Jigsaw Puzzle

Puzzle strategy tip number two: dump out the pieces! After all, you can’t solve your jigsaw while it’s still in the box. Remember to arrange the puzzle on your table carefully, as pieces can easily get lost when they’re small and blend in with the surrounding flooring. If you do lose a piece, check out our blog on what to do if you’re missing a puzzle piece. Coming up with a solution is easier than you think!

Turn All Pieces Face Up

Once all the pieces have been taken out of the box, turn each one face up. This will give you a clearer picture of what you’re working with and will help with later stages of puzzling, like sorting the pieces.

Assemble the Border

Often, people wondering how to start a jigsaw puzzle overlook this step—assembling the border. It can seem a little tedious at first, but identifying the edge pieces and putting them together to create the full border provides a clear framework. If the puzzle is a rectangle or square, the corner pieces will be your guides. Note that for shaped jigsaw puzzles, assembling 100% of the border at first may be too difficult, in which case do as much as you can!

Sort the Pieces by Color

Easy as pie, organize your puzzle pieces into small piles by their color. You can keep it general at first, subdividing by more nuanced shades as you go. It also helps to look for similar patterns on the pieces to see which ones go together—two blue pieces, for example, could fit in completely different areas of the jigsaw.

Sorting pieces is especially useful when working on larger jigsaw puzzles with complex images akin to miniature worlds. Even if the pieces you’ve grouped don’t automatically fit together (or need to be moved around) this process will help save you time and effort in the long run.

Step 3: How to Solve the Puzzle

Now that you have your workspace set up, border assembled, puzzle accessories handy, and pieces neatly sorted, it’s time to solve the puzzle! Work at whatever pace makes you happy, taking breaks as needed.

Complete Section by Section

One of the most impactful puzzle strategies is to work section by section. Simple, right? Use the pieces you sorted into different piles based on color and pattern, gradually filling out areas and reorganizing pieces as needed. You can always go back and forth between a few different areas, should you get stuck on one section (like that endless blue sky).

Build the Center

As much as possible, try to work from the middle areas of the puzzle outward. This helps bring together and connect surrounding sections, like the branches on a tree. This part of the puzzle strategy goes hand-in-hand with the previous steps.

Piece the Puzzle Together

By now, the jigsaw puzzle will likely have many sections ready to be connected and pieced together. Fill in the gaps between sections and solve for the rest of the jigsaw puzzle, getting any last edges assembled you may have been stuck on earlier. Once you’re done, pat yourself on the back, no matter how easy or challenging it was to complete your puzzle.

Step 4: Deciding on a Frame

Congratulations on finishing your jigsaw puzzle! Now that it’s completed and you know how to start and solve a puzzle like a pro, you have to decide whether you’d like to shuffle it back into the box or keep it preserved. For saving it, use dedicated puzzle glue and frames to hold the pieces together reliably. Otherwise, take apart your jigsaw piece-by-piece for future enjoyment.


Solving puzzles is a fun, stress-relieving hobby enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Puzzling exercises both halves of the brain and has been shown scientifically to help improve short-term memory, concentration, and problem-solving abilities. Plus, puzzles are lots of fun whether you fly solo or work with family or a group of friends. Now that you know how to do a puzzle like a pro, it’s time to start solving.

Are you on the quest for your next puzzling adventure? Shop for jigsaw puzzles at Bits and Pieces today, browsing by theme or the number of pieces to find exactly what you’re looking for. Thanks for reading!

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