How Puzzles Are Made? Did You Know

Are you a puzzle enthusiast and would love to learn about the history of these mind-challenging pictorial pieces? Well, you are in the right place, as this post will be your guide to the world of puzzles. 

In this article, you will learn about what puzzles are and how they came into existence, what goes behind creating, and each of these masterpieces. By the end, you will be able to impress other puzzle enthusiasts in your circle with this newly learned information. 

Puzzles have been around for centuries now and are popular in many cultures around the world. For many of us, they are stepping stones to learn to recognize the order and put things into place. So, it is natural for you to be curious about who came up with the concept and how companies come up with ideas behind each puzzle set. 

One thing you can rest assured of is that this information will give you a fresh appreciation for puzzles. As you put the pieces together, you are participating in an old tradition. For this, we have done some research brought you information from some of the most authentic sources about how manufacturers make puzzles

So without further ado, let us dive right in. 

Table of contents


What are Puzzles 

A puzzle is a pictorial tiling activity that requires you to assemble oddly shaped interlocking pieces together to create a complete picture. Each piece of a puzzle has printing on it that depicts a specific part of the overall picture.

 In order to complete a puzzle, you must interlock all the pieces together. However, the challenge lies in knowing where each of these pieces fit. The bigger the puzzle, the more challenging it gets. Sometimes a puzzle may contain small pieces ranging from several hundred to several thousand. 

A Brief History of Puzzle

You can trace the roots of the art of puzzles back to the 18th century. In those days, people used to paint a picture on a flat piece of rectangular wood and then cut that entire painting into small pieces to puzzle. It sounds like some hard work, doesn’t it? 

Although puzzles are commonly known as “jigsaw puzzles,” ironically, no jigsaw was ever used to cut the paintings into pieces. That said, 1760 was the year they commercialized the jigsaw puzzles, and the credit goes to John Spilsbury, a London-based engraver and cartographer. This was the first time when they started using cardboard instead of a wood plank. 

So, now they were using a picture and adhering them to think and stiff cardboards as well wood and cutting them into multiple pieces. The idea is to put the pieces in a specific order to recreate the original pictures. 

Spilsbury first thought of the idea by gluing a map on a think cedar and mahogany panels and then cutting them using very fine marquetry saw. He decided to go public with his newly found talent and creativity, and his puzzles were an instant hit amongst the masses. 

The future generation of puzzle makers used this technique and expanded the art of puzzle making to reach and attract other customers who wanted more than just maps to put together. 

This next generation of puzzles started creating broadsheets and tabloid-sized magazines printed on cardboard and cut into puzzles. These puzzles had funny stories and poems printed on them, and people had to put them in the correct order to finish the entire story. 

That said, these broadsheet puzzles became outdated quickly, and the manufacturers had to create new broadsheets frequently to keep consumers interested. 

Therefore, puzzle manufacturers even ventured into territories such as multiplication tables, alphabets, pictorial depiction of historical people or events, biblical passages, and much more to entice a wide range of audiences. 

Fast forward to the 1940s, the wooden puzzles were losing their charm, and people were getting bored of them. This is when the enhancements in die-cutting and lithography gave the puzzle industry a new breath of life and made them more appealing. 

By the end of the ’60s, wooden puzzles were no more, and cardboard puzzles had taken over the world. Some manufacturers, such as Stave Puzzles, still saw some potential in wooden puzzles and continued producing them. Guess what? He was not wrong because the wooden puzzles continue to woes the avid puzzle-solving community. 

Variety in Puzzles 

You can find a variety of images on puzzles nowadays; they include scenes from famous buildings, nature, repetitive design patterns, mountains, castles, and other traditional subjects. 

That said, there is no hard and fast rule as to what image you can use to create a puzzle. Companies are now using technology for printing small and one-off print-run puzzles covering a broad spectrum of subject matters. 

Some high-end puzzle manufacturers even use unusual art, optical illusions, and personal photographs to add oomph to the activity of puzzle assembling for the consumers. Moreover, puzzles are no longer conventional flat cardboard; you can even get two-dimensional and three-dimensional puzzles. 

While some manufacturers also create puzzles to recreate architectural structures, you can even get spherical puzzles.  Recent puzzles come with additional accessories such as cases, frames, boards, and rollup mats to help puzzle enthusiasts preserve their recreated masterpieces. 

You can always disassemble a puzzle to have another go at it and see if you can do it faster than the first time. However, they also come with an option where you can attach your completed puzzle to an adhesive surface and display it as a piece of art. 

The Modern Puzzle Material

Modern puzzle manufacturers use paperboard material as they are an inexpensive and convenient way to mass-produce puzzle boards. They use enlarged images and a printed replica of a painting to create new and exciting puzzles. Moreover, they can even glue other two-dimensional puzzle pieces to the cardboard and then feed them into a press. 

The press then forces a number of hard steel blades in desired places to create a pattern. This process is known as creating a puzzle die and cut the entire board into the desired number of puzzle pieces. You can create a puzzle ranging from tens of small pieces up to thousands. 

3-D Puzzle

You can now get puzzles with an interlocking mechanism. This means all the adjacent pieces connected together can move horizontally while other pieces stay connected to it. This interlocking connection is strong enough to pick up the entire solved portion by simply holding a single piece of the puzzle. 

Some of these 3-D interlocking puzzles come in pieces with a similar shape. They have a corresponding indentation known as blank on two ends meant to receive tabs. On the other hand, the other two sides contain rounded tables on their opposite ends. 

Some of the interlocking puzzles may also contain blanks and tabs in different positions on each piece. However, typically each of these pieces has four sides with various numbers of blanks and tabs. 

Shapes of Puzzles

Most puzzles come in a variety of shapes, such as round, rectangular, and square. Most of these puzzles have edge pieces with smoothly curved or straight sides. However, some may have corner pieces and edges with no straight sides. These kinds of puzzles are more challenging as the identification of each piece a complex task. 

Puzzle Die Composition

A puzzle die is a flat board that comprises a material such as plywood. This die has slots burned or cut in a similar shape as the blades used in the press. The manufacturer set the knives into slots covered in a type of compressible material such as foam rubber. This helps the machine to eject puzzle’s cut pieces. 

The Cutting Process

The cutting process for the puzzle is similar to how you would cut cookies using a cookie cutter at home. Of course, the force required to cut the puzzle pieces is far greater than simply presser a cutter on a cookie. 

Did you know that a typical thousand-piece puzzle would require more than 700 tons of force in order to push the cutting die through the puzzle board? 

Thanks to technology, laser cutting has now made this task easier. Puzzle Manufacturers can now cut acrylic and wooden jigsaw puzzle boards of any size with precision cost-effectively. 

Acrylic puzzles are far more durable and waterproof than their counterparts. There are little to no chances of image degradation as the cutting and printing are all computer-based, and manufacturers can always create any lost pieces. 

The Manufacturing Process

In this section, we are going to discuss the type of raw material used in the manufacturing of Puzzles. That said, you must remember that there is no hard and fast rule for what artwork you can and cannot use to create a puzzle. 

However, most manufacturers stick to using lithographic prints. This is purely because of the inexpensive and high-quality factor that makes it easier to produce on a larger scale. Most puzzles have a theme such as a movie, comic, famous picture, painting, art pattern, scenery, location, monument, etc. 

You can even supply your personal picture to some manufacturers, and they will create a custom puzzle that is special to you alone. For example, it can be a picture of your wedding day, graduation, first birthday, and much more. 

  • Designing a Puzzle

Your puzzle design varies with the type of artwork used and the style the manufacturer desire as an end product. There is an artist present who will determine the design of the cut. You may find it amusing that no two puzzles are ever alike. 

Moreover, some of the best puzzles excel at expertly combining the picture used with the cut pieces’ design in order to enhance the user’s excitement and enjoyment. The puzzle artists take great caution in creating a design so it does not cut through any significant feature of the overall picture, such as a face of a person. 

The design artist is also responsible for determining the skill level of puzzle-solving. This means they can create a simple puzzle design or a very complex puzzle to challenge advanced-level users. To put it simply, the greater the number of puzzle pieces, the higher the difficulty level to assemble them. 

Some puzzle manufacturers even make their puzzles more challenging to assemble as they avoid making any pieces with straight-edge borders. This makes it hard for the users to know which of the pieces are going at the edges.

Not having the defined edge pieces will make it challenging for you to know where to begin a puzzle. Generally, puzzle users try to look for edge pieces to create a border and then start filling the rest of the pieces within it. Having no edge pieces means you may start from any part of the picture. 

  • How Long Does it Take to Create a Puzzle

It can take up to 2,000 hours for a puzzle manufacturer to create and produce a puzzle. The process typically takes around 12 months, and the critical steps involved are printing the puzzle and lamination of the artwork. The following steps will be cutting the pieces and then packaging the final puzzle.  

Let us suppose you have taken a personal artwork to the manufacture to create a custom puzzle for you. Let us see how a manufacturer will go through each of these processes in a bit more detail. 

  • Printing and Cutting the Puzzle

The first step for the manufacturer will be to take your artwork to print in a suitable format. This is where lithography comes in, as it is the most commonly used process in the puzzle-making industry. 

In lithography, the puzzle maker uses a plate especially treated to absorb any oil or water. The portion of the plate with no printing need is wetted with. The puzzle die-cutting press then uses a sharp but flat metal ribbon to stamp out each puzzle piece. 

The artist’s drawings determining where to cut the puzzle go to rule-bend experts who then bend the machine’s razor-sharp steel blades in shapes and directions to cut the desired puzzle pieces. The machine then pounds the metal rules into the wooden mounted die. 

One side of the metal ribbon comes permanently fixed to a wooden block, and when this block presses on the soft cardboard, the cardboard cuts under pressure created desired puzzle pieces. 

  • Packaging of the Puzzle

Once the puzzle board leaves the die press, the sheet goes through a section known as a breaker. Here the entire puzzle separates into individual pieces, and then these pieces go through the packaging process. 

Nowadays, it is standard practice for the puzzle industry to feature the true picture of what the puzzle will look like upon completion. If you are a puzzle enthusiast, you know, referring to the box from time to time to use it as your guide. This picture helps you know which portion of the puzzle you are in and what you should look for in your next puzzle pieces to continue. 

However, you will find it amusing or shocking that although puzzles have been around for centuries, manufacturers of the puzzles did not introduce this feature until the mid-1930. 

Can you imagine how hard it must be for puzzle fans to know what the picture might be? They probably would not know what the puzzle is unless they complete it right up to the end or at least 90 percent of the entire puzzle. 

While this traditional art of puzzle making is still in fashion, the technology is changing rapidly to meet the demands of customer’s liking and taste. With the virtual world's attraction, smartphone and mobile phone apps for games, puzzle makers have to come up with some very innovative ideas to stay relevant. 

Tips for Choosing a Puzzle 

Whether you are a puzzle-solving aficionado or have taken it on as a new hobby, here are some tips to help you choose the right puzzles. 

  • Always choose a puzzle based on its degree of difficulty as per your preference
  • The price range determines the quality of the puzzle in terms of material and difficulty
  • Always buy age-appropriate puzzles for the person to enjoy
  • If you are buying it for a person who may be a collector, choose something unique and may not be available elsewhere. This will make it a novelty item for the receiver. 

Benefits of Puzzle Solving

Not many people know that apart from entertainment, puzzles can offer other benefits such as. 

  • Using a puzzle will help you exercise both sides of the brain because you will need your brain's logical side to solve the puzzle while using the creative side to explore new ways to solve it. 
  • Puzzles can help improve your problem-solving skills and develop high-quality cognitive skills. 
  • Solving puzzles can be a mood booster as trying to solve it will give you a rush of dopamine, a natural mood, and a well-being enhancer. 
  • Puzzle-solving can lower your stress levels and increase your concentration span as you learn to focus on a single task. This makes your brain submerge into a meditative state while you work on all possible solutions. This chance to concentrate on a single task helps you relieve stress and go into a relaxed state of mind. 

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