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How to Complete a 2000 Piece Puzzle

Over on Instagram, there is an annual puzzle-along called #puzzlelikeits1999 which is a challenge to ONLY 2000 piece puzzles for a month. Founded by Heather of @heatherpuzzles, the specific month it’s held has changed over the past few years, but this year, it was September! Some people speed their way through and complete colossal quantities (7-10) and others take their time to savor only one in the month. Both numbers, or anywhere in between, is wonderful and impressive, because...2000 pieces in one puzzle is a LOT. 

So, how does one tackle a 2000 piece puzzle? Is it really 2x harder than a 1000 piece? 10x harder than a 200 piece?! Or does it depend on the image/subject matter and how you approach it? In my opinion...A little bit of all of the above. 2000 piece puzzles can be trickier than a 1000 piece, in the same way that a 1000 piece can be more challenging to do than a 500 piece. For me, the most daunting part is the volume of pieces and where to put them all before they are a full image!

The first step to completing a 2000 piece is: Choose the right puzzle (for you!)

Puzzle choice is the key to having fun at any time. Pick a subject matter that you enjoy, be it the bustling city of Las Vegas, or your favorite Pokemon characters. You’re going to be with this image for a while, so make sure you like looking at it. You want to also consider the composition of the artwork, and piece shape of the brand (check out our Brand Comparison Guide for help with this!). We all love a pretty cloudless sky, but if the sky part of your chosen image is 300-500 pieces in a 2x2 standard cut all the same color, that’s going to be more difficult than a collage of patterns and a varied piece cut. Don’t forget to check the completed size and make sure you have a surface large enough for your choice. Different brands have different finished sizes, but they tend to average close to 38” x 27”. You don’t want to get hours into the puzzle only to realize you can’t fit it on your table.  

I chose to use Ceaco’s Purrfect Cats, as it’s a lot of my favorite things. Collage style, lots of color and patterns, cats as a subject matter, a varied ribbon cut to keep it interesting, and it fit on my puzzle table (just barely!). 

OK, we’ve got the puzzle in hand, we measured, and it will fit on the table...now what? I break out my favorite big piece count puzzle tools; my big sorting plates, handy dandy lazy susan, and trusty cardboard sorters! The lazy susan is a 14” household one, and the cardboard is cut up pieces of standard shipping boxes (reduce, reuse, recycle). I do have plenty of proper puzzle sorters, but I fill them up so quickly with a 2000 piece, and as you’ll see, I have other uses for the cardboard too. Now it’s time to sort. I know for some of you, that’s a dirty word, but really it’s about helping to break down the massive amount of pieces into manageable piles. More importantly, to flip all the pieces right side up so you can see what you’re working with! Usually I get about 3/4 of the way through the pieces and give up on sorting, leaving me with a lot of organized piles by color or pattern, and then one big pile of the leftovers. For this puzzle, the individual colors went onto the sorting plates, and the leftovers stayed on the lazy susan, which helps with those long reaches across the table, just bring the pieces to you!

For any collage style puzzle, not just a 2000 piece one, I don’t feel tied to the edge pieces as a starting point. I do separate them out while sorting, but diving right into a specific object is usually my starting point. This puzzle was no exception to that, and I grabbed the pile that jumped out to me most, starting to assemble the small piles of red patterns together. Although there is no right or wrong sorted pile to choose from, you’ll feel accomplished quicker if you start with the smallest piles and work your way up to the bigger ones. This is where those cardboard trays come in handy! As you piece together small sections, keep them on the cardboard, so you can stack them and move them around, and not have to worry about placement on the table yet. 

The cardboard also comes in handy for spilling your next sorted pile out and being able to start to assemble those pieces into small little chunks. Depending on the brand, you’ll be able to move sections easier than others, if you don’t have a Puzzle Scoop, an index card, or a mailing insert can be used to slide under the sections and move them supported. You’ll want it to be thicker than a standard piece of paper, but thinner than cardboard. 

Repeat this process until all your sorting piles are done, or until you run out of cardboard to stack completed sections on. Now comes the time to start putting the pieces on the table! On my desk, I have tape marks at standard puzzle size intervals, to make it easier to estimate the location on where the sections go. If you don’t have this, you can either use your best guess and maybe need to do some extra shuffling/sliding later, or this could be a good time to do your edges to give yourself a better guide on where to land them. 

Once I had all the cardboard cleared off and pieces on the table, I dove back into the sorting trays that I hadn’t yet emptied. Still grabbing from the smaller piles first, although they were now much larger piles than I started off with. Completing small areas and filling them into the table where I could, some sections connecting into other sections I had placed. Scooting over or up when needed to make sure they fit into their places. Finally, it was edge time! 

By the time I had the edges done, it was over the hump and most of the puzzle completed. Remember that leftovers pile? Now is it's time to shine. Back to the trays to flip the rest of those pieces over, and do a mini-sort to group them in like colors, here is where a varied piece shape comes into play. When you’re faced with a lot of the same color, like a background, or that pesky blue sky we talked about before, being able to look for the proper piece by shape, or the nubs and prongs (innies and outies?), will really help locate the pieces needed to fill in the remaining. Eventually, you’ll get to the last piece, and then get the satisfaction of placing that in, and seeing all your hard work come to fruition. 

Overall, I worked on this over the course of 6 nights, spending 2-3 hours on the shortest night, and 6-7 hours the longest. A 1000 piece puzzle, typically will take me 2 nights at the most, so it does for sure take longer to complete a 2000 piece. Beyond there being more pieces, needing more space and more time; a 2000 piece is no different than a 1000 piece puzzle. If you haven’t tried one and have been too intimidated by them, take this as your sign to give it a shot. Find your favorite image, clear off the table, and start sorting!

-Jenn / @puzzleknucks

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