How to Determine The Quality Of Personalized Jigsaw Puzzles
The criteria used to measure the quality of custom puzzles are the same as those used for mass produced puzzles. Not all personalized puzzles are manufactured with equal quality or durability and if you opt for a low priced product you may end up being very disappointed with the personalized puzzle you purchase
A personalized puzzle should last for years without fading or damaging and should not be constructed in such a manner as to be a temporary asset. As personalized puzzles are often given as gifts and keepsakes it would be very disappointing if within a short period of time the puzzle begins to fade and deteriorate looking worn-out without even being used much.
Cutting of Puzzle
One of the most important factors in determining the quality of any jigsaw puzzle is the quality of the cutting of the puzzle. Steel dies are used to cut through the cardboard sheet dividing the puzzle into the desired number of pieces.
The design and condition of the die will have a major effect on the quality and fit of the puzzle pieces. Good quality dies need to be very sharp and therefore need to be replaced regularly as they can not be sharpened.
Due to the high replacement cost of dies many of the cheaper puzzle manufacturers tend to stretch the lifetime of their dies resulting in poor quality puzzle pieces that show signs of tearing or pieces that are not properly separated during the manufacturing process.
The quality and durability of the images of a personalized puzzle depends largely on the printing method used to produce the jigsaw puzzle image. A quality puzzle will have accurate colors and will be printed on paper that will resist moisture and not fade easily.
Photo puzzles should be printed on photographic paper which is water resistant. A good quality personalized puzzle should have a beautiful silk finish with excellent colouring that will last for many years.
It is often found that cheap jigsaw puzzles are created using a standard ink jet or laser printer, resulting in images that rapidly fade, or smudge easily from moisture on your hands.
Quality of Cardboard
The quality and thickness of the cardboard used to manufacture the personalised puzzles will play an important role in determining the overall quality of the product. Good quality puzzles should be manufactured using at least 1.2mm thick, Grade "A" cardboard. This cardboard is hard and stiff with a low moisture content resulting in a good quality puzzle.
Low quality cardboard is thin and has a high moisture content causing each piece to be very flexible, soft and floppy, which does not allow the puzzle pieces to click well together. The high absorbency characteristic of poor quality cardboard will cause puzzle pieces to warp easily, resulting in a very poor fitting puzzle, typical of cheap personalised puzzles
Another factor that will affect the durability of the puzzle is the water content in the adhesive used to fix the photo image to the cardboard. The water content will play a major role in determining whether puzzle pieces will warp or bend. Good quality puzzles are manufactured using latex based adhesive with an exceptionally low water content.
Low cost puzzles tend to be glued together with everyday paper glue which invariably results in the image peeling away from the cardboard backing, over a relatively short period of time.
Quality of Image
This is the one factor that the puzzle manufacturer has very little control over. The customer must provide a good quality digital photo if they expect to get a good quality image on their personalised puzzles. The degree of difficulty of the puzzle is entirely dependant on the selection of the image as made by the customer.
The photo may consist of recurring images which will produce an extremely difficult puzzle but most people opt for family photos or scenery that has a special meaning to them or the receiver of the personalised puzzle as a gift. Irrespective of what the image is, overall picture quality including lighting, composition and focus will determine the quality of the puzzle image.
The image supplied by the customer should be large enough for the size of the puzzle they require. This however should not pose a problem if a digital camera is used as even a cheap digital camera produces images of sufficient quality to produce a relatively good image for a quality 500 piece puzzle.
To ensure that you get a good quality and durable personalized puzzle ensure that you start off with a good quality image and determine the quality of printing, cardboard, adhesive and cutting methods used by the manufacturer before ordering a personalized puzzle.
As this type of puzzle is unique and not something you can buy at a local store it is worth doing a bit of research before you place your order for a personalized puzzle. Use your own photos as far as possible and steer clear of images that may be copyright protected.