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Make your own puzzles

Updated on May 23, 2011

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

X-acto knife


Thin sheet of wood or illustration board

Craft glue or spray mount

Small magnets

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.

X-ACTO Craft Tools #1 Knife With Safety Cap, Pink
X-ACTO Craft Tools #1 Knife With Safety Cap, Pink

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 One more tip is to ask wallpaper stores for their outdated sample books.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.

Other ideas


Magazine pictures

More options:

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 pieces@1.5" 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

Completed Fridge Puzzle
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

Famous art print puzzle
Famous art print puzzle

Here's a puzzle made from a Christmas Card.

Here's a puzzle made from a Christmas Card.
Here's a puzzle made from a Christmas Card.

Another puzzle made from a Christmas card.

Another puzzle made from a Christmas card.
Another puzzle made from a Christmas card.

More books for puzzle-holics

Master Pieces: The Art History of Jigsaw Puzzles
Master Pieces: The Art History of Jigsaw Puzzles

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.

Making Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
Making Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles

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.

Do you like puzzles? - When is the last time you worked on a jigsaw puzzle?

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    • maurissam profile image

      Chocolate Pickney 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Great ideas, I can see myself doing them with the kids. Lovely lens

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      I love this idea and you step by step instructions with photos make it look really easy! Angel blessed and featured on Squid Angel Mouse Tracks in Crafts.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      Just wanted to add- blessed by an angel!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image

      puzzlerpaige 7 years ago

      @Grasmere Sue: Hi whitemoss,

      I think I mostly enjoy the creating and puzzle therapy!

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      You must be so patient! Great idea!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      I have done this with my own that I didn't know what else to do with since It sat around for so long...great artistic ideas...very nice lens...5*

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 8 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi, I have featured this at By Kids 4 Kids - A Group of Squidoo Lenses for Kids and I have sprinkled some angel dust (you can add a link to my angel lens if you want).

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 8 years ago

      I am a packrat,too.

      My oldest granddaugters (6 and 4) really like Fancy Nancy so I bought them a puzzle a few weeks ago to do together. The older one helped keep the younger one organized. The younger one was really good at finding pieces with the right colors! What fun they had.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I would never have thought to create a homemade puzzle like this. This is really cool! We'll have to try making some. Thanks!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      These are wonderful instructions on how to Make Your Own Puzzles. I am going to have to try this. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Marelisa 8 years ago

      My two year old nephew loves puzzles, and he's amazingly good at putting them together. I found great ideas for puzzles I can make for him on this lens, thank you. :-)

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 8 years ago

      Very nicely done! I love the caterpillar puzzle!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 8 years ago from California

      Having made puzzles before I found your instructions easy for anyone to follow. You also have some good tips....5^ 's

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 8 years ago from United States

      Great Lens! 5 stars of course!

    • profile image

      Joan4 8 years ago

      Great ideas for gift giving and super instructions! Thank you! Blessed by a joyful angel!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      This is a great step by step guide, with very good pictures. SquidAngel Blessings to you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Paige, I love this lens! What a great hobby and a lovely, personal gift to make for people - thank you! 5 stars for you! :)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      What a neat idea!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image

      puzzlerpaige 8 years ago

      Hi Heather,

      Yes, I own one of your husband's puzzles. It is beautiful and that is why I bought it!!!

      Heather's husband is a famous artist, Richard Burns. Click on her screen name and find her lens "Beautiful Art from Richard Burns" to see his artwork. Amazing.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      When I was a young bride we used to do puzzles and frame them for art. But now my husband's artwork is made into puzzles for us. Good idea for an original gift!