Jigsaw – Custom Shutterfly Puzzles

Some family members thoughtfully put together this nice gift for us- a custom jigsaw puzzle to commemorate our wedding.

Given how we’re currently looking to start making small batches of our own puzzles, we had a double benefit from this gift. Firstly, it was fun getting to experience assembling a customized, personally relevant image. Secondly, it gave us an idea of how these small-batch operations work and what we should be on the lookout for when creating our own line of puzzles.

This puzzle was very difficult to assemble. I started with the light blue text section, then assembled all of the photos. All of that was pretty easy. But from that point onward, the rest was blue. I’m not opposed to a challenge puzzle, and it was fun to think about this in a different way.

The Shutterfly puzzle pieces are thin and often seem to fit together in places where they shouldn’t be. That, combined with all the blue, meant I had to get creative on my strategy.

It wasn’t possible to assemble the border first- there were far too many points at which multiple pieces seemed like good fits for each other, and only by building outward from the images could I truly solve the puzzle.

I sorted each blue piece by shape. Progress was slow at the start, but by matching pieces where I had at least two adjacent connections ready, I could minimize the amount of false clicks.

That leads me to one key detail to consider when evaluating puzzle brands. It’s really unfortunate when you manually try every single piece available to fill a gap and none of them work. Sometimes it’s because the pieces were loose and shifted just a little so the correct piece didn’t seem to quite fit. Other times it’s because the correct piece is incorrectly locked in somewhere else. Whatever the reason, that’s one part of the puzzle experience I’d like to make sure none of my designs have. Even the Ravensburger escape puzzles are guilty of this since the border pieces can all connect to any other, but at least there, the tradeoff is that this arrangement is necessary to allow the final secret puzzles.

So all in all, I had a good time, but it’s clear the quality of Shutterfly puzzles don’t match up to the industry leaders. It makes sense given how they need to take whatever steps necessary to keep the cost low enough to be able to produce one-off puzzles, and it gives me a lot to think about for how I can make a small-run product that matches the highest quality puzzles out there!

Piece total since 3/20/2020: 16045

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