Are You New to Puzzling?
In the last few months I’ve felt myself shift away from being a new puzzler to a more experienced puzzler. I don’t think there’s a timeline as such for when this happens, but I feel like I can confidently choose my puzzles with regards to the experience I want to have. If you happen to follow me on Instagram though, you’ll know for a fact I still slip up on a semi regular basis and the “relaxing and easy” puzzle often turns into a big joke, because the easiest part is opening the box.
I’m seeing a lot of new people joining the puzzling community on an almost daily basis and many of them are very new to puzzling. Sometimes as quickly as they join the community, they disappear. It makes me wonder if their choice of puzzle is a contributing factor, which in turn made me think about what I wish I had known about choosing a puzzle as someone who is not a lifelong puzzler.
I feel like this may be one of the most important parts of choosing a puzzle. For a first time puzzler, I would recommend keeping the piece count low. Doing an adult puzzle doesn’t mean you need to go straight to a 1000 or 2000 piece puzzle. I personally began with a 500 piece puzzle and I found that was a nice starting point for me.
There’s a term that’s been coined in the puzzle community called a “snack” puzzle. Generally a puzzle with a 300 piece count or less falls into this category. The “snack” puzzle has become popular as many puzzlers can complete it in one sitting and it’s more relaxing in the way that you aren’t overwhelmed by a huge amount of pieces sitting in front of you.
If you really aren’t sure if puzzling is something you can see yourself doing regularly, start with a lower piece count, perhaps a 500 if you know you enjoy a bit of a challenge and a smaller piece count of 300 or less if you are just interested in seeing if puzzling is suited to you.
As mentioned above, I still to this day slip up on this part. I regularly buy puzzles because I absolutely adore the image but I fail to take a look at the finer details that make up the bigger picture. Dark backgrounds, huge expanses of sky, water or greenery will increase the challenge level of a puzzle.
Even if you have amazing lighting and perfect eyesight, dark backgrounds are one of the most challenging aspects to deal with when puzzling. Small details on dark backgrounds are difficult to see and if you happen to have a puzzle that has a glossy surface, the glare from light on the surface of those pieces will increase the challenge level again.
Huge expanses of sky, water, greenery and even fur can frustrate even the most experienced of puzzlers. Skies, water, greenery and fur tend to involve minutely differing shades of one to three colours and is usually more prevalent in photographic style puzzles as opposed to illustrated. Having some 200+ puzzle pieces of one colour to fill in can become very tedious, very quickly.
Another thing to look at when choosing an image to puzzle is the art style. This is my downfall every time. Some of the most beautiful puzzles are created using artwork from an artist who has literally painted that image. If you break that painted image down into puzzle pieces, there are no crisp lines and no sharp details. You are going to be looking at a sea of brushstrokes and you will be trying to match dobs of paint. The challenge level of your puzzle has just increased by 100%.
So what should a new puzzler look for then? You still need to find an image you love, that‘s very important. Look for a puzzle image that has sharp details and multiple colours. You’ll want to find an image that has a few “anchor” points. What do I mean by anchor points? You’ll want a picture that has some obvious details you can put together. Perhaps a red barn, a blue car and a yellow sunflower. If those particular colours/details stand out more than others in the puzzle, you’ll be able to easily put those together and it will make it easier to fill in the space surrounding them.
A poorly made puzzle will have you pulling your hair out before you’re even a quarter of the way into your build. Very thin, poorly cut, broken, damaged, splitting and/or bent pieces are such a big disappointment. Very loose fitting pieces and the dreaded false fit (where a puzzle piece will fit into multiple places and look correct even though it’s not) is absolutely a fast track to frustration. That being said, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a puzzle to have a good puzzling experience! There are plenty of budget friendly good quality brands at Puzzle Warehouse with Colorcraft, Buffalo, Sunsout and Ceaco just to name a few. Keep in mind the staff at Puzzle Warehouse definitely know their puzzles and will be more than happy to make a suggestion or two.
Puzzling is supposed to be enjoyable. If you want your first puzzle to be 2000 pieces, definitely go for it! If it takes you 3 weeks to put together a 500 piece puzzle, that’s okay! If you really are not enjoying a puzzle, you’re allowed to not complete it, pack it up and work on a different one. The only rule in puzzling is that you enjoy it!