How to do a 500 Piece Puzzle from Start to Finish

If you're new to doing jigsaw puzzles or even if you haven't attempted one in a long time, you may want some help with how to do a puzzle from start to finish.

500 piece jigsaw puzzles are normally an ideal place to start for adults who are new to this hobby or haven't made one in a long time. Let me take you through all the tips and tricks in how to do a 500 piece puzzle - right from the start to the finish.

This article takes you step by step through the process of doing a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, providing loads of tips on how to begin, carry on and how to finish. You'll be addicted in no time at all!

How to do a 500 Piece Puzzle from Start to Finish: Solve a 500pc Jigsaw With Loads of Tips and Tricks

How to do a 500 Piece Puzzle from Start to Finish: Solve a 500pc Jigsaws Tips and Tricks Puzzles Begin Beginners Starting

New to jigsaw puzzles or coming back after a long break? Get confident at putting together a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle with this handy step-by-step article that breaks down the process and gives you all the beginner tips and tricks that you need to know.

Doing jigsaw puzzles is a perfect hobby because it's inexpensive, you don't need much equipment, it's addictively fun, relaxing and it gets you away from the stresses of everyday life, work and technology.

However, knowing how to start or how to begin a jigsaw can be a bit intimidating if you've never done one before or if you haven't done one for many years. Let me take you through the process with step-by-step images as I complete a 500 piece jigsaw. Let's go.

Step 1) Tips on Choosing the Best 500 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle to Start With

Jigsaw newbies or beginners don't normally consider what the best type of jigsaw puzzle is to begin with. And believe me, your choice of jigsaw puzzle does matter. It matters a lot.

There are some ridiculously easy 500 piece puzzles and some that are very hard. You ideally want one which is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Before you start, you may also want an idea of how long a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle will take you to complete.

Look for a Standard Grid Cut 500pc Jigsaw

To start out with, you really want to pick jigsaws that have a standard grid style of cut rather than a random cut. With a grid cut, the pieces tend to follow standard jigsaw shapes and they more or less line up vertically and horizontally up and down the jigsaw which makes it far easier for a beginner.

With a random cut, pieces can be any shape at all and they don't necessarily line up in any way or even interlock. You want to avoid these types as a newbie. At least until you have several jigsaws completed and you're happy with your progress.

Most jigsaw puzzle brands use the more standard grid cuts so it's easier to say which brands you should avoid. In particular and at least to start with, avoid random cut brands such as The House of Puzzles, Wentworth, Cobble Hill, Springbok, Ceaco, SunsOut and White Mountain.  I happen to love random cut jigsaws and some of these brands are favourites of mine but they're really not ideal for someone new to puzzling.

Pick a Jigsaw Puzzle Design That's Beginner Friendly

As well as the type of cut, the design on a jigsaw also matters if you want one that isn't going to leave you frustrated and tearing your hair out.

Lots of beginners opt for nice looking scenery and landscapes as a design to start with. Scenery can have challenges for you as a beginner, especially if there is lots of sky, water or snow. Those parts, especially when covering large areas of your jigsaw, can end up being very tricky to do.

Tips on Beginner Friendly 500 Piece Jigsaw Designs:

1) Avoid jigsaws that contain lots of the same colour: commonly lots of sky, snow or water.

2) Avoid very dark puzzles, especially ones with a lot of black. They can be extremely hard to complete.

3) Don't choose a single colour jigsaw or a colour gradient - that's for when you're experienced.

4) Avoid WASJIG, Ravensburger Exit puzzles or any type of find the difference puzzles where the printed image on the box is not the same as what you end up making.

5) Avoid any game style or novelty jigsaws, all edge pieces, mazes, Where's Waldo or Wally, miniature sized pieces, baked beans or brussel sprout designs!

6) Look for a good variation of colour and design in your choice of jigsaw. I purposefully picked this 500 Debbie Cook Bad Cats & Baubles design knowing that it's a beginner friendly one that is not too challenging.

7) Stick to a normal rectangular shaped jigsaw to start with. Shaped and circular puzzles can be harder to put together. Even square shaped puzzles can pose a problem when they fit on your board in one direction but not the other.

8) Look at the finished size of the jigsaw, it's normally printed on the box, and make sure that your board, case, mat, table or flat surface is going to be large enough to hold the finished piece. I bought puzzles as a newbie and then realised they were too big for my 500 piece jigboard.

9) Find a design that has enough to interest you without being too busy. You'll get to know which styles of puzzles are your favourites the more that you do.

Your choice of a 500 piece jigsaw can mean the difference between you enjoying this hobby and wanting to do more, or hating it and never wanting to try it again. So I hope my tips help you to choose the right design to start with.

Step 2) How to Start a 500 Piece Puzzle

Starting is probably the hardest. It can really be a hurdle for some newbies. They've got the jigsaw, but now having to make a start seems a bit overwhelming.

This gets easier, the more jigsaws that you tackle. Let me show you how I start my 500 piece jigsaw so you can see the process.

In time you'll probably devise your own process for doing jigsaws, or your own favourite way of solving them. For now, see how I do it so you can make a great start.

Separate All the Edge Pieces

Sorted corner and edge pieces for a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle laid out on a board jigboard jigsaws puzzles sorting

Photo shows my corner and edge pieces separated and sorted into shapes. Piece shapes with standard grid puzzles can easily be determined by the number and placement of tabs (sticky out bits!) and holes.

You don't have to start with the edge pieces. You can start a jigsaw in the middle of the design or anywhere. But most puzzlers start with the edge pieces because it immediately gives you a handy frame to work within. And, the bonus is that you can easily see how much you've completed as you go along.

So I do recommend that you first go through the jigsaw pieces in your box and pick out any with a straight edge, or two straight edges which would be a corner. There will be 4 corners to look out for and lots of edge pieces.

I can't tell you how many edge pieces there will be to find as this will vary from puzzle to puzzle. However, I can tell you that you'll be very lucky if you do happen to find them all first time around! I always miss a few when picking out edge pieces.

You can separate the edge and corner pieces simply by placing them in a plastic bag like a food bag, in a box, on a tray or directly onto your board or the surface which you're doing the jigsaw on. I like to pop the edges straight onto my jigsaw board.

Sort the Edge Pieces into Jigsaw Shapes

I don't normally sort the edge pieces unless I know that the edge is going to be particularly difficult. However, I recommend that you do sort the edge pieces for your first jigsaw as it will make it easier for you. Plus you'll know exactly what to do if you tackle a harder jigsaw further down the line.

To sort the edge pieces, simply place the corner pieces on a line of their own. Then pick out all edge pieces with two holes and one tab (sticky out part!) and place those together. Pick out all edge pieces with 2 tabs and one hole and place those together.

You may also have pieces with other variations, in which case you'd simply put similar shapes together. Having the different edge pieces grouped by shape makes it faster and easier to put the whole edge together.

What to do With the Non-Edge Pieces

With all the non-edge pieces, I put those directly into the bottom box part of the jigsaw puzzle. I like to make sure that they are all facing the right way up which means it is easier to pick pieces out of the box.

Step 3: Putting the Edge of the 500pc Jigsaw Together

Starting the corner section of a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle how to do a 500pc

I normally start the edge off with a corner section that is easily identifiable from the box image.

Usually I will start off the edge with a corner piece. I'll pick a corner area which is easy to identify because it's hopefully different to the rest of the edge and start from there. Spend some time looking at the image on the box and getting to know the artwork because being familiar with the design really helps when finding pieces to fit.

If you have a suitably sized puzzle board (the one I have is the 500 piece Jigboard) then you know roughly where to put corner pieces. If you start with somewhere else along the edge, you may have to move it later on to fit into your working area.

With the Bad Cats & Baubles jigsaw that I've chosen, the bottom left corner is a great place to start because that contains the only shade of this purple. Having a distinct colour makes it easier to find those edge pieces and slot them together.

Piecing Your Jigsaw Together With Tabs and Slots

If your corner piece has a hole, then you know that the next piece to look for has to have a tab to slot inside that hole. If it has a tab, then your next piece needs a slot to fit around it.

Having the pieces sorted makes it quicker for you to find the correct piece that fits. You can quickly look through your sorted edge pieces to find pieces that may be a match with the colour, pattern or shape.

You may need to try more than one jigsaw piece to find just the right one that matches. Sometimes more than one piece may fit, however look closely to check if it matches by colour and/or pattern as well.

Keep working along from one corner until you either get to the next corner piece or you get stuck. If you get stuck, look to work from the corner in the other direction instead.

Finished edge piece of a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle Bad Cats & Baubles by Debbie Cook

Before you know it, you'll have the edge completed. If you do get stuck along the way, bear in mind that you may not have picked out all of the edge pieces when you separated them from the rest. If you get stuck, it may be because you're missing a piece (or two) so try to work from a different direction.

What to do if You Have Missing Pieces

No matter how careful I think I'm being, I always miss a few (or more) jigsaw pieces when separating the edges. The choice is either to hunt for them in the box in order to finish the edge off.

Or, alternatively, don't bother to look for the missing edge pieces because they should turn up later. Most of the time I carry on and the pieces turn up further down the line.

Don't get hung up by a few missing pieces, usually you'll find them along the way. I've found missing pieces on the floor, still stuck in the original packaging, in the bin thrown in with the packaging by mistake, at the back of my desk and even in my bed after a lazy Sunday morning puzzle session.

I've never had a brand new puzzle that is actually missing pieces and most of my second-hand puzzles have also been complete once I've found pieces that I've mislaid or dropped somewhere.

Still stuck? Have a look at my How to Begin a Jigsaw Puzzle article as well. Otherwise move onto the middle of the jigsaw.

Step 4: Filling in the Middle of the Jigsaw

Gibsons Bad Cats & Baubles Christmas Cat Jigsaw by Debbie Cook 500 Pieces Work in Progress

Once you have the edge completed (even if there are a few missing pieces) it gives you a nice border or frame to work inside. You can easily see how much left there is to do and it makes completing your 500 piece jigsaw puzzle less intimidating once that border is up.

After the edge, you can start anywhere. I like to pick out pieces which are easy to find to start off with. I may pick out a colour or pattern which stands out in the box as being a unique colour or pattern.

Get Familiar With the Jigsaw Design and Artwork

Spend time again looking at the actual artwork. Trust me, getting to know where different designs, patterns, colours and details are located in your jigsaw will really help you in solving it. It's worth taking time to really look at the design on the box, sometimes also on a pullout poster.

In this 500 piece jigsaw, I first found all the purple pieces because they were so easy to spot being the only purple pieces in the design. Next I decided to hunt for the yellow pieces which was the wrapping paper on the present with the holly design. These pieces really stood out when I was rummaging through the box so they were easy for me to pick out and assemble.

You may not find all the pieces to complete one specific area of the design but that doesn't matter. If you get stuck in one area, simply move on to another. There are so many places to work in the middle of a jigsaw puzzle that there's no point feeling frustrated or stuck. Simply move on.

Working on a 500 piece Gibsons jigsaw puzzle Bad Cats and Baubles

You don't always have to work on an area that is already fixed to the edge. Here, I've started putting together the Christmas baubles because it was easy to find these colours and designs in order to fit pieces together.

I've put each bauble roughly where it may be in the finished design. If you need space to assemble more parts of the jigsaw, they can easily be moved or pushed to create more working space.

Doing a jigsaw is simply picking out areas of the image that stands out to you and working on that area. The areas don't have to join up initially. Think of it like creating islands of design, keep making islands and eventually they join up to create a whole continent.

Step 5: How to Finish a 500 Piece Puzzle

500 piece Christmas cat jigsaw puzzle design working on a jigboard

As you work along assembling different areas of the design, it's natural that you'll start joining smaller areas to create larger ones.

You can see that I've done most of the left side of this jigsaw puzzle, that's because I was getting really familiar with that part of the design and I just kept finding pieces in the box that I knew would fit.

This is an easier cat jigsaw puzzle to assemble because the artist, Debbie Cook, has created three cats each with different fur and eye colours. It's much harder when you have multiple cats with similar coloured fur.

When choosing cat and dog designs especially, look at whether there are lots with similar fur colours and patterns and you'll know those will be more challenging to complete.

Work on Smaller Areas and Join Them Up to Finish

To finish a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, keep working on different areas. I also call these areas islands because it's like creating little islands that evolve into bigger islands and eventually join up with the mainland.

If you get bored with one area, say the green tree, stop doing that and work on something else like the tinsel. Just keep working on smaller areas and joining them up.

The more you complete in your jigsaw, the less pieces are left in your box and it gets easier to spot pieces that you're looking for. Plus, the more you look at the picture on the box, the more familiar you get with the design and it makes assembling your jigsaw easier.

If You Get Stuck, Then Sort

If you get really stuck, you can sort the remaining pieces just like you did with the edge pieces. Sort by shape on a spare board or work area, a tray, even in jigsaw sorters to help you locate pieces you need faster.

Instead of sorting by shape, some people sort pieces by colour and even shades of a colour if you have lots of a single colour to assemble. You can try all of these techniques if you find it hard to complete your 500 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Use Fresh Eyes to See The Puzzle Anew

If all else fails, get a fresh pair of eyes to look at your jigsaw. Sometimes all it needs is for you to take a break and come back to it refreshed or, alternatively get someone else to take a look to see if they can fit some pieces for you.

Whatever you do, don't give up. You can do this! And you'll feel a real sense of accomplishment when you fit the last piece and you've finished.

If you enjoyed assembling this jigsaw, find out what someone who loves jigsaw puzzles is called. It's probably nothing like what you think it is.

If you found your first 500 piece jigsaw puzzle too easy, you can either pick a more challenging design or do a higher puzzle count. If you found it too hard, perhaps look at 250 or 300 pieces made for adults instead. Whatever you do, keep going because there are so many benefits to doing jigsaws including the fact that jigsaws help to relieve stress.

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Articles are accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in medical, business, financial, legal, or technical matters. All images on this site are my own or are product and public domain photos that are used with permission.