- Arts and Design
Make your own puzzles
Make traditional or magnetic puzzles
Use these step-by-step instructions to make your own simple puzzles. Or take it a step further and make a magnetic puzzle which remains on your fridge all the time, tempting all who pass by.
Choose a simple brightly colored picture for a child's puzzle and possibly a famous work of art for an adult's puzzle. Or buy materials in bulk and make several puzzles at one time as Christmas gifts.
I'm sharing lots of puzzle making variations here, so explore them all to find a combination that is just right for you.
Puzzle making materials
Greeting card or other picture
Thin sheet of wood or illustration board
Craft glue or spray mount
Hot glue gun & glue sticks
Must haves for making puzzles
A must have for a cutting surface. The mat is rubbery and does not dull your craft knife.
I have 5 X-acto knives in our home. I use them every single day. Keep out of the reach of children, but have them for your convenience.
Call me a pack rat, but I don't have the heart to throw out old greeting cards. The pictures are beautiful or cartoonishly funny and too nice to throw away. I keep them in a box and in a pinch I've even giving hubby the same Valentine's card a few years in a row. I keep them mostly for crafts though. I DID have 2 full boxes like this, but thinned them out keeping the ones with the best pictures. This is only one source for pictures. There are many more.
Another great source for pictures is wallpaper. I bought this wallpaper border on clearance and have used it for many crafts. The dog in the middle would work very well for a puzzle. One more tip is to ask wallpaper stores for their outdated sample books. Wallpaper sample books have expiration dates on them and they are eventually discarded. Why not recycle wallpaper books? I received several books this way with the neatest pictures imaginable. One other thing about using wallpaper is that the surface is durable and washable - a real plus when you think about little fingers.
I bought this framable print for $1 at a discount store. The picture is more formal than a greeting card or wallpaper. I'd use this print to make a puzzle for my mom.
You can also use your own family photos for puzzles. Use group photos, pictures of your pets or kids photos (kid's love puzzles of themselves!). But remember to avoid cutting people's faces when you are planning the number of puzzle pieces and where to cut etc.
After you read the section below, don't forget to check out the Puzzle Variation section.
1. Choose the picture with care
I've looked through my box of old greeting cards and picked out several candidates for the puzzle I'm going to make. I really like the Christmas cards, but this puzzle is not for me. It's for my neice and I know she would much prefer the caterpillar since she loves bugs.
2. Picture size
Get your ruler for this. You've got several things to think about all at once. How big is the picture? How many pieces do you want the puzzle to be? Can it be divided up evenly? Even if you are very good at math it is always easier to cut a puzzle picture every 1" than every 9/16th's. Don't you think? I don't know if you can see the ruler, but the card measures just over 5". I'm going to trim it to exactly 4.5" wide. Then I can make it 3 firstname.lastname@example.org" each = 4.5".
3. Number of pieces
This picture is going to work out well for a 6-piece puzzle. Six pieces will be just right for my neice. Each piece is 1.5" wide x 2" tall. Here you can see I've cut them out. Keep in mind: if you are making a fridge puzzle, you'll need one magnet for each piece. Make sure you'll have enough magnets.
A Puzzle Lover's Book of Books - The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History
This book comes from a jigsaw puzzle collector and historian, Anne D. Williams. It covers fascinating facts such as Ellis Island physicians using jigsaw puzzles to determine mental capacities of immigrants. Also how people of the great depression looked to puzzles to take their minds off of their circumstances. The first chapter begins, "Queen Elizabeth, Bill Gates, Stephen King, Albert Einstein, Barbara Bush, virtually every preschooler in America, and millions more - how can they all fit naturally into the same sentence? They all love jigsaw puzzles."
1. Choose the backing
My two favorite backing materials are thin sheets of wood and illustration board. For wood, I use 1/16" thick basswood. For illustration board there are lots of options. It comes in different sizes, thicknesses and colors. This board is labeled: Cold Press Illustration Board, Medium Weight (.050-.060). Both of these products are available at craft stores. For this project I'm going to use the wood. If you are going to use illustration board, scroll down to the section labeled Puzzle Variation.
2. Cut the backing to size
Measure and cut the backing to the exact same size as your picture pieces. This could take several passes with the X-acto knife. Especially if you are using wood and are cutting across the grain. Just stay with it, cutting carefully.
3. All 6 pieces
I've got all 6 pieces cut to size.
1. Glue the puzzle piece onto the backing.
Using your fingertip, spread a very thin even layer of craft glue onto the wood piece and glue on the picture piece. Keep a wet washcloth handy to wipe the glue off of your fingers.
2. The puzzle piece might curl a little.
But don't worry. It's only curling because of the wet glue. Put the pieces under some heavy books and they will flatten out as they dry.
3. Glue on the magnets - or not.
When the glue is dry, glue the magnets onto the back of the puzzle using a hot glue gun. Now it's ready to put on the fridge or give as a gift.
*If you want to give this as a traditional puzzle, skip this step.
Completed Fridge Puzzle
Puzzle variation - a different way
Here are some options to consider
When I use illustration board for the backing, I make the puzzles a little differently. The differences are: I use spray mount for the adhesive (as opposed to craft glue) and I glue the picture onto the backing before I cut it.
1. Cut backing and picture to overall size
For this variation I'm going to glue the picture onto the backing first, then cut the pieces to size. The reason I do this is because I am more comfortable cutting paper than wood. You can make them however is comfortable for YOU.
2. Carefully adhere picture onto backing
Spray a coat of spray mount on both surfaces. If you are not familiar with spray mount, it can be very sticky and you need to spray it outside. With both surfaces sprayed, the bond will be super strong. Make sure your picture is lined up on the backing because you won't be able to adjust it if it is crooked.
3. Mark the puzzle for cutting
I want to try something a little different with this puzzle. I'm going to make more interesting shapes and I'm skipping the magnets. This will remain a traditional puzzle. I hope you can see that I've very lightly marked a pattern on the backing. It looks a little like a stained glass pattern. Avoid tiny pieces.
4. Cut the puzzle pieces
This will take several passes with your craft knife. This puzzle turned out to be much harder to assemble that I realized when I chose a pattern. Fewer pieces would be much better for a child.
4. Reassemble the pieces
Put it all together. Is the puzzle harder than you thought? Mine was, and I learned that for a child I'd make this in fewer pieces.
Famous art print puzzle
Here's a puzzle made from a Christmas Card.
Another puzzle made from a Christmas card.
More jigsaw puzzle resources - Related links
More books for puzzle-holics
The artwork alone is reason enough to have this book in a puzzle lover's home. Amazon has a Click-to-look-inside option for this book - don't miss it.
The Table of Contents in this book includes: The Puzzle Picture, The Puzzle Board, Adhesives, Tools, Saws and more. If you want to learn the ins and outs of making JIGSAW puzzles, then you'll want to read this book.
"Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.''
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Not that I don't like a nice pair of earrings every now and then.