How to Make Your Own 3D Jigsaw Puzzle

Updated February 21, 2017

Making your own three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle can be a fun and rewarding way to spend a rainy afternoon. The hardest part will be deciding what type of 3D puzzle to build. Three-dimensional puzzles can take many shapes and forms. One of the more popular types of 3D puzzles is a puzzle of the globe. This can fun and entertaining but also educational. Another popular subject to build is a castle. Boats and ships also make great 3D puzzles, as well as structures like the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty.

Design your 3D puzzle. In designing your 3D puzzle, you will need to decide the theme for your puzzle and the type of materials you want to build it out of. Balsa wood is a soft, thin wood that can be cut with a straight edge. Foam board is also easy to work and usually comes in 1/4-inch thick sheets. The puzzle theme can be drawn out onto a large sheet of paper first and can serve as a reference as you build your puzzle. If building a well known structure like the Eiffel Tower, use a picture from a book or online as your reference.

Draw out your puzzle onto the balsa wood or foam board. Using a pencil, draw one side of your structure out onto the balsa wood or foam board. For a structure such as the Eiffel Tower, the front and back are exactly the same. Also, the sides are the same. If building the Statue of Liberty, then the front, back and sides will each be different.

Draw the shapes and sizes of each piece out onto each side of the puzzle. If you are a beginner, then draw larger-shaped puzzle pieces. Start at the bottom of each piece of balsa wood or foam board and draw the puzzle shapes using a ruler when drawing straight lines. Beginners should draw simple curved puzzle pieces. Remember that you will have to cut each piece out with a straight edge.

Cut out each puzzle piece with a straight edge or mat cutter. Carefully cut around the edges of each puzzle piece. This will be a long, tedious process that may need to be completed in stages. Your hands can become cramped after an hour or so. If using balsa wood, your pieces may need light sanding around the edges.

Put your puzzle together. Structures such as the Eiffel Tower will be easier to put together if you use some sort of inner support such as a triangular shaped block of wood. If building a globe type puzzle, then you must use an inner support so that you have something to build upon. A rubber ball is an excellent and inexpensive way to deal with this.

Paint your structure. Your 3D puzzle can now be painted. Acrylic paints are easy to work with. They clean up easy as well. Any colours may be used and this is simply a matter of personal preference. Even if you are building a globe puzzle, it is not necessary to paint it to look like the earth. Paint birds, flowers, sunsets or animals onto your puzzle for an interesting look.

Allow several hours for the paint to dry before taking the puzzle pieces apart. Once dry, take the puzzle apart and store pieces in a clean, dry box so that they do not become damaged or wet.


Work on a large, clean flat surface that is protected from knife cuts and paint splatters for best results.


Beginners should not attempt intricate or complex 3D puzzle themes. Keep it simple!

Things You'll Need

  • Balsa wood or foam board
  • Mat cutter
  • Ruler
  • Paint
  • Brushes
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About the Author

Carolyn Sorrell began writing in 1985. She has written novels and short stories, and her articles have appeared in "Letters to Our Mothers" and "Southern Living." In 2009, she ghost-wrote a book about the Obama campaign for a client in Washington. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English.