Attaching a picture to a jigsaw puzzle
August 13, 2023 7:43 PM   Subscribe

I’m replacing missing jigsaw puzzle pieces. I’ve got the chipboard but I’m not sure what sort of paper, glue, and finish I should be using for the picture layer to make it both durable and to have the correct luster on its surface. Paper artists, suggestions?
posted by Tell Me No Lies to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Best answer: I have done this. My experience was that with a 1,000 piiece puzzle, each piece was so small in comparison to the whole picture that the eye is very forgiving. I was actually able to just print out a color copy of the image on the puzzle at about the right size, cut and glue it on with kid's craft glue, and even though if you look at it up close it's clearly not right, once you stand back a foot or two it disappears completely, to the extent that it's hard to identify which piece it is.

I use decoupage glue on the top of my puzzles as well as sticky sheets on the back; they come in glossy and matte varieties. Mod Podge is a widely available brand. Choose whichever finish you prefer and go over the entire puzzle with it after you insert the replacement piece, and the finishes will match.
posted by bq at 8:41 PM on August 13, 2023

Response by poster: Thank you, bq.

In case it matters I wanted to add a note on the "durable" front: the puzzles I’m repairing are part of a lending library and the more popular ones get done 20 or 30 times a year as well as being slogged home and back by the patrons. The storage space also regularly hits 110F. I’m concerned about the glue failing after a month or two.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:22 AM on August 14, 2023

Best answer: Modge podge is pretty cool stuff. Modge podge on the front and back. If you're really serious, you can make a mold with molding putty.
posted by cmm at 6:33 AM on August 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would suggest a paper with no sizing so it accepts glue and varnish easily. A good letterpress paper should do this. A white paper will shift colors higher in value and a cream or gray colored paper will shift image values deeper with regard to matching the original images. A letterpress paper would fit easily in a printer for matching the original image digitally.

For glue I would go with a spray adhesive. This will allow you to isolate the puzzle pieces for precision and minimize the edges sticking together with other pieces.

For a protective top coat, I would go with a spray acrylic mineral spirit based varnish, and give the whole puzzle a few coats, front and back. You would need to separate the pieces first to avoid making the puzzle have adhesion at the piece junctures. Spray acrylic offers glossy, satin and matte finish; with matte finishes, too many layers will develop a white fog effect which is the matting agent becoming visible. Allow 24 hours between coats for water to completely evaporate from the finish. Most people prefer the satin finish.

If it were me, I would test the durability of the puzzle, and if it still felt vulnerable, coat it with Varathane, which is a very hard mineral sprit based acrylic varnish for industrial purposes. You can roller-skate on that stuff and it won't budge.

Some tips on spray varnish technique: Lay the image flat, and mist over the image from above at a ninety-degree angle; a light mist of varnish falling evenly and allowed to dry flat. Two lights coats is much better than one single coat. Both sides.

The spay varnish and glue will minimize warping of the individual pieces, which will be an issue with water based products. The spray will make it much easier to control application without involving tool based applications. I hope this is helpful.
posted by effluvia at 7:29 AM on August 14, 2023

Best answer: When I made a small book the recommended glue was a water based pva glue. Search for bookbinders glue. If you want a protective top coat, maybe clear nail polish or a uv epoxy resin would work?
posted by ljesse at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2023

Go to a thrift store, get kids' puzzles with big pieces. otherwise, the backing from a lined notepad should be the right thickness.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on August 14, 2023

Hmmm. I don't suppose there's any chance to getting replacement pieces from the manufacturer? I've heard some will do this on request.
posted by bq at 4:36 PM on August 14, 2023

Response by poster: I don't suppose there's any chance to getting replacement pieces from the manufacturer?

It's supposed to be a hit and mostly miss activity, hence the sites out there charging $10 - $20 USD per piece.

The manufacturer isn't in a place to produce individual pieces so it's not surprising they're not big on this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:59 PM on August 14, 2023

In that case, I think your best bet may be to make multiple replacements for the missing pieces that you duplicate. Set the extras aside together. When a puzzle comes back, check it….a piece that’s peeling should jump out at you visually. Then you can pull it and replace it with one of the duplicates you created at the same time.

At least that way you’ll only need to do this once….
posted by bq at 8:18 AM on August 15, 2023

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