How to Begin a Jigsaw Puzzle: Starting Jigsaws Beginner Tips

With time spent away from gadgets and electronic devices becoming a real must in order to destress and unwind, it's no wonder that so many people want to know how to start a jigsaw puzzle.

If you're already a puzzler, you may find it seriously puzzling that anyone would want to know how to begin a jigsaw puzzle. However, starting a new hobby can be quite overwhelming as well as exciting.

Discover all the beginner tips and tricks here for how to get started with doing jigsaw puzzles. It's such a great hobby and one that you'll really benefit from whatever age you are.

How to Begin a Jigsaw Puzzle: Starting Jigsaws Beginner Tips and Tricks

How to Begin a Jigsaw Puzzle: Starting Jigsaws Beginner Tips and Tricks Doing Start Newbies

Solving jigsaw puzzles is a fantastic hobby and it's thankfully never too late to start. No matter what age you are, you can really benefit from starting a jigsaw puzzle- or two!

Puzzling is the ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle that modern-day life has become. It's a great way to relax and unwind, it's known to de-stress you and is an inexpensive and fun hobby.

You may be wondering how best to start though. How can you just pick up and begin a jigsaw puzzle? If you've never been shown or you haven't attempted a jigsaw since childhood, you may be overwhelmed at how to begin.

So let me guide you through all my best tips right from choosing the right beginner puzzle for you, to learning step by step how to begin and learn to put a jigsaw puzzle together.

Don't let yourself feel overwhelmed for long. Let's get started so you can quickly get to enjoy this wonderful and rewarding hobby.

Step 1) What Size Jigsaw Puzzle Should You Get to Begin With?

For most adults, a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle is a great place to start. You can easily work up to more challenging 750 and 1000 piece jigsaws from this point. And you can just as easily come down to the readily available 250 and 300 piece designs that are also made with adults in mind.

I recommend starting with a 500 piece jigsaw which is challenging enough to start out with. I know that there are many more designs made in the 1000 piece range, however 1000 pieces can be really overwhelming and intimidating for a beginner to tackle. You're much more likely to get frustrated and give up on this wonderful hobby by setting your sights too high to start with.

If your eyesight or your hand-eye coordination and dexterity is not so good, lots of brands have extra large size jigsaw pieces for 250, 300 and 500 piece jigsaw puzzles. Look for the words extra large pieces, large piece, big and large format.

Step 2) What Brand of Jigsaw Puzzle Should You Choose?

Ravensburger 1000 piece the puzzlers desk jigsaw poster

There are loads of good brands of jigsaw puzzles to choose from. You'll often hear Ravensburger mentioned as they are really great quality jigsaws that are readily available in many countries.

Ravensburger pieces are large enough for most people to grasp well and hold. The pieces are about as thick as you will find anywhere and very robust which means you're less likely to break or bend them.

Ravensburger is a very good make for you to start with as a beginner and they also use a standard grid cut which means that the pieces more or less line up vertically and horizontally up and down the jigsaw which makes it far easier for a beginner to do.

There are other cuts of jigsaw puzzle. You don't need to know too much about these except that you are best avoiding random cut jigsaws.

Random cut pieces can be literally any shape, not just the standard puzzle pieces you may be familiar with, and they don't necessarily line up in any way or even interlock. You really want to avoid these as a newbie.

In particular and at least to start with, avoid well-known 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.

So for that reason, although Ravensburger are not my personal favourite brand, I absolutely do recommend them as a great brand to get started with.

Step 3) Lots of Tips on Beginner Friendly Jigsaw Puzzle Designs

Falcon de luxe Winter Garden Birds completed jigsaw puzzle

This Falcon de luxe jigsaw called Winter Garden Birds is a good starting point with plenty of colour and design variation in it and no large areas with just one colour.

People new to jigsaws don't normally think about the best type of jigsaw puzzle to begin with. They simply choose a design that they like the look of. While it is important to choose a design that you like, it's also just as important that you don't buy one that is going to really frustrate you as a beginner.

Your choice of jigsaw puzzle matters. It matters a whole lot. Although my recommended 500 pieces may not sound all that much, 500 pieces of a really hard jigsaw puzzle can be excruciating for a beginner to do. And, without realising, you may choose a jigsaw that is too hard to start with if you don't read through my tips below.

You ideally want a design that has a bit of challenge but not too much. Here's my top tips on what to bear in mind when choosing your first jigsaw puzzles to get started with.

1) Beware of Beautiful Looking Landscapes and Scenic Jigsaws

Scenic jigsaws can be stunning to look at. But designs that feature lots of the same colour in big areas can be super hard, not just for beginners but also for those more experienced with doing jigsaws.

Try to avoid designs that feature lots of sky, snow or water because they will normally have a lot of pieces in the same colour. This can be very frustrating to solve.

2) Pick a Normal Rectangular Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle

To start off, choose a standard rectangular shaped jigsaw and master these before choosing other shapes.

Shaped, oval and circular jigsaw puzzles can be so much harder to assemble due to having curved or random shaped edges.

Even square shaped puzzles can pose a bit of a problem when they perhaps fit on your jigsaw board in one direction but not the other.

3) Avoid Black and White and Dark and Moody Jigsaws

Avoid very dark puzzles, especially ones that feature a lot of black, black and white puzzles, Gothic and moody designs.

I know they can look really amazing when complete but jigsaws with a load of black are among the hardest to solve and not beginner friendly at all. They're also quite evil to see under all but the best lights.

4) Don't Pick Single Colours or Colour Gradients

Some puzzlers love doing single colour jigsaws such as Krypt by Ravensburger and Gradient. I know rainbow designs can be very tempting too.

No matter how cool you think these look, don't touch them as a beginner. Avoid these like the plague. These designs are for when you're experienced and you fully understand sorting techniques that help.

5) Say NO to Novelty Jigsaw Puzzles

I love novelty jigsaws, there are some great ones available to try. But really these are best avoided as a beginner.

Definitely avoid WASJIG, Ravensburger Exit puzzles or any type of find the difference puzzles where the printed image that you see on the box front is not an exact match with what you end up making. Not being able to match your jigsaw up with a picture is much harder.

Also avoid any game style or novelty jigsaws while you are learning how to solve jigsaw puzzles as a beginner. There are some fabulous all edge piece puzzles, mazes, murder mysteries, Where's Waldo or Wally, miniature sized pieces, baked beans or brussel sprout designs. But leave those until later.

6) Look for a Good Variation of Colours and Patterns

Look for a jigsaw that has a good variation of colour and pattern. Dreamy style jigsaws with soft, pastel shades such as the Thomas Kinkade ones look stunning but they are very hard to put together because the colours gradually fade into one another.

Jigsaws that have plenty of contrasting colours and patterns that are easy to pick out are easier for beginners to tackle.

7) Make Sure the Size of Your Puzzle Fits in Your Working Space

Take note of the finished size of the jigsaw which is normally printed on the box sides or back.

Make sure that your board, case, mat, table or flat surface is going to be large enough to hold the finished puzzle.

I bought jigsaws as a newbie and then realised too late that they were too big for my 500 piece jigboard. It's frustrating to have a jigsaw lined up only to realise that you can't fit it in your working space.

8) Find Your Perfect Beginner Jigsaw Puzzle

Find a jigsaw puzzle design by being aware of all the above tips and then choosing one that has enough in the design to interest you without being too busy. Overly busy puzzles can do funny things to your eyes when you look at them for a while!

You'll get to know which styles of puzzles are your favourites the more that you do. The main thing is to pick a design that you like that isn't too much of a challenge and get started.

Step 4) Sorting Out a Suitable Space for Doing Jigsaw Puzzles

Working a jigsaw puzzle on a tilted surface with green poker fabric

Assembling the Chronicles of Narnia jigsaw puzzle on my tilted workspace area no longer means I have to strain my neck with looking down all the time.

If you haven't already, think about your jigsaw puzzle workspace. Are you lucky enough to have a room that you can use where a jigsaw can be set up permanently? Or will you be working in a shared space which means that your puzzle may need to be moved?

When I first started, I used a portable jigsaw case on our dining room table. Every time we needed the table, I could close the case up and slide it under the sofa. Something like a Portapuzzle which is a case that you can work jigsaws on and then close up, can be a great beginner option.

Now I have an office with a permanent tilting table that I can use as well as a case and two sizes of portable boards so I can enjoy doing jigsaws elsewhere in the home, in the garden and even my favourite method of a lazy Sunday morning puzzling in bed. I normally have more than one jigsaw on the go at a time so this is my perfect setup.

Workspaces for jigsaw puzzles can include portable boards, cases, roll-up mats, tables and more. Some people choose to make their own boards from wood, thick cardboard and other flat surfaces. I have even read about people using dog crate liners.

Anything with a flat surface can work well. If your space is smooth then pieces will slide around easily which is perfect while laying flat but no good on an angled or tilting table as they all fall to the bottom.

If you have a fabric covered surface such as poker table fabric, the jigsaw pieces won't slide very well but they will cling on if you wish to save your neck getting strained and want to use a board at an angle so you are looking across at a jigsaw rather than down.

If you choose a board, does it have a cover to keep dust off and cats from sitting on your unfinished puzzle? Does it have a lip around the edge to stop pieces just falling off easily?

When thinking about your space, be aware that you may also need room not just for the jigsaw puzzle as you make it but also for the loose pieces.

Where will you keep the loose pieces as you work? With a Portapuzzle style case, you often get additional soft boards that can hold all your loose jigsaw puzzle pieces as you work. This makes a convenient option for many beginners.

Otherwise, you may wish to store the extra pieces in the box of your puzzle, in containers, on trays or even in special jigsaw sorting trays.

Step 5) My Best Tips and Tricks on Starting Your First Jigsaw Puzzle

Sorting edge pieces jigsaw puzzle piece corners

You can see step by step how to do a recommended 500 piece jigsaw puzzle here. My article walks you through the whole process and gives you the confidence to tackle your own.

Once you've got your space sorted and your first jigsaw, you're ready to open it up and get going. Here's my best tips to get you started.

1) Separate the Corner and Edge Pieces

You can start anywhere with a jigsaw, but beginners normally find it easier to start by assembling the edge of the jigsaw first. It provides a frame or border that you can then work within.

So hunt for all the pieces with straight edges on and either place these into their own sorting tray, face up so you can see all the bits, or in the middle of your jigsaw workspace.

2) Flip All Other Pieces Face Up

With all the non-edge pieces, I put those directly into the bottom box part of the jigsaw puzzle as I sort the edge pieces out. You could use a large tray, jigsaw puzzle sorting trays or boards to spread all the pieces out on.

I like to make sure that they are all facing the right way up in the box so you can see the colours and patterns. This makes it easier to pick pieces out of the box as you are doing the jigsaw.

3) Sort the Edge Pieces by Shape

I don't normally sort edge pieces unless it's a particularly tricky jigsaw. A beginner or newbie can benefit from sorting the edge pieces as it will make it quicker and easier to assemble the puzzle.

Having the different edge pieces grouped by shape makes it faster and easier to put the whole edge together. Plus it gets you used to sorting pieces which can come in handy if you ever get stuck.

You can see the edge sorting process here as I take you through doing your first 500 piece jigsaw puzzle.

4) Before You Start the Edge, Study the Design

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 searching for specific pieces.

Look for a good place to start off. An area of the edge that perhaps has a unique colour or patterning from the rest of the design.

5) Starting With a Corner Gives You Two Directions to Work From

Usually I will start off the edge with one of the corner pieces.

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.

A corner area is great to start with because you know roughly where to place a corner on your workspace and it immediately gives you a choice of two possible directions to branch out from.

If you start with somewhere else along the edge, you may have to move it later on to fit into your working area.

6) Get Familiar With Tabs and Slots

There are a lot of words used for the round holes in jigsaw puzzle pieces and also the sticky out nubs or knobs. I keep it simple and call them tabs (sticky out parts) and slots.

If you've taken the time to sort your edge pieces, putting the edge together will be much faster and easier since you can more easily see the possible pieces that might fit by having them all lined up.

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.

7) If You Get Stuck Working in One Direction - Change

If you get stuck, look to work from the corner in the other direction instead. Sometimes more than one piece might fit and that can stump many a beginner. Simply work in another direction and if that fails try piecing together another corner instead.

Also 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 simply choose a different direction.

8) Every Piece You Fit, Leaves Less Pieces to Choose From

Remember that every piece you fit, leaves less jigsaw pieces to choose from. So it makes the job easier as you go along. Don't give up, you can do this. One piece at a time is all it takes. You're solving the puzzle, one piece at a time.

9) Sort by Colour And/Or Pattern

Once the edge is complete, you can start filling in the middle of the pieces inside the border you've made.

I prefer to simply rummage through my pieces and look at the box artwork to see where they may fit and piece it together that way. It's less organized and more of a relaxed, I don't care how long this takes me kind of approach.

As a beginner, you may feel more in control by sorting the remaining pieces by colour and/or patterns so grouping pieces where the colour or pattern matches. Lots of people like using jigsaw sorting trays which will hold groups of puzzle pieces.

Some puzzles feature wording so you may want to group all those together when you come across them.

Having grouped pieces can make the process of placing them easier because you can simply turn to the blue tray when you need a blue piece for instance.

10) Puzzle Shapes Can Give You Clues

As you work on your jigsaw puzzle, you may start to notice shapes. Not just the shapes of the puzzle pieces with their different numbers of tabs and slots but also the shapes of the empty spaces waiting to be filled.

Getting more comfortable with these shapes makes it easier to spot which pieces may fit where.

11) Work on Islands and Join Them Up

Doing the middle of a jigsaw is basically picking out areas of the image that stand out to you and working on that area.

These areas don't have to join up with the edge initially. Think of it like creating little islands of design. Keep making islands and eventually you will join them up to the mainland.

12) Keep it Fresh

It's easy to lose track of time when you are enjoying doing a jigsaw puzzle. But when you start to feel tired or your eyes do, you should stop and take a break. Your puzzle will still be there to enjoy and come back to.

Sometimes when we get over-tired, it can take longer to find pieces that fit and that can lead to frustration. Doing a jigsaw should be enjoyable, so when you feel yourself getting frustrated, you'll know it's time to step away for a while.

Come back to the jigsaw with a fresh and rested pair of eyes and you'll likely get on much better. You can even get someone else to look at it for you if you get stuck.

Keep going and build your puzzle, piece by piece. It's not a race, nor a competition. It's simply about you enjoying the process of building and solving.

The feeling of accomplishment when you finish is great. It's a feel-good feeling that makes you want more.

I hope that's enough tips for you to feel confident in how to start a jigsaw puzzle. If you feel you need even more help, do view my how to do a 500 piece jigsaw article listed below which is a detailed walkthrough.

Happy puzzling. Marie

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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.