From famous brands like Ravensburger to newer lines like Cobble Hill and Eurographics, jigsaw puzzles are the hot "new" thing - especially as we're all spending a little more time at home!
Types of jigsaw puzzles
Modern jigsaw puzzles are typically made of paperboard, and can be sorted into three main categories: ribbon cut, random cut, and family cut.
Ribbon cut jigsaw puzzles are your tried-and-true cut pattern, where pieces essentially line up in a grid pattern with uniform rows and columns.
Random cut jigsaw puzzles can get a bit more wild and crazy, with unusual variations on the typical puzzle piece shape. These pieces can have large, small, or completely missing tabs and blanks, creating more of an abstract pattern once the puzzle is complete.
Family cut jigsaw puzzles are perfect for mixed age groups. These puzzles have large pieces on one end of the image for young puzzlers, then transition to medium and small sized pieces on the other end of the image for more experienced puzzlers. With family cuts, everyone can work together on the same jigsaw puzzle and still feel challenged.
A few jigsaw puzzles also toss in the occasional whimsy piece - these are pieces that are shaped like a recognizable image, breaking up the puzzle’s otherwise regular cut pattern. The Darth Vader puzzle from Ravensburger, for example, has individual pieces cut in the silhouette of Darth Vader’s helmet and other iconic Star Wars shapes.
Jigsaw puzzle brands in Canada
Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles
Founded in 1883 in Ravensburg, Germany, the company’s puzzle offerings have become the gold standard in the world of jigsaw puzzles. Ravensburger specializes in ribbon cut puzzles in a wide variety of piece counts and artistic styles, with a distinctive thick blue paperboard backing. They also produce a number of 3D puzzles.
Cobble Hill jigsaw puzzles
Based in Victoria, BC, Cobble Hill was founded in 2005, making it a relative newcomer in the industry. The company is named for Vancouver Island’s Cobble Hill, located halfway between Cowichan Bay and Shawnigan Lake.
Cobble Hill produces high-quality puzzles with detailed, often whimsical and cheeky artwork in a random cut pattern. The puzzles have a linen finish to cut down on glare.
Eurographics jigsaw puzzles
Eurographics was founded in 1987 in Montreal, QC. They specialize in jigsaw puzzles with photography and fine art images, using a cut pattern that’s somewhere between a regular ribbon cut and a random pattern. Eurographics puzzles have vivid colours and a glossy finish.
Gibsons jigsaw puzzles
Gibsons Games is the oldest game and puzzle manufacturer in the UK. It was founded in 1919 in London, and claims to have a fan in The Queen herself.
Gibsons puzzles are printed on a thick, sturdy blue paperboard - very similar to Ravensburger. Puzzles are cut in a strictly gridded ribbon pattern, and have a slightly matte finish. Gibsons specializes in British-themed puzzles - perfect for homesick expats and those daydreaming about past and future travels.
Galison jigsaw puzzles
Galison features crisp, richly coloured, high-quality illustrations - sometimes with a bit of shiny foil, glow-in-the-dark features, or shaped contours to really make the artwork stand out.
Galison puzzles typically have a semi-gloss finish to reduce glare and thick pieces that assemble into a gridlike ribbon cut pattern with a satisfying snap. Even the box is well-constructed, with a pleasant satin finish and rich colours.
Indie brand jigsaw puzzles
A number of smaller puzzle manufacturers have come to market in recent years, each bringing a unique set of images and approaches:
The Canadian Art Prints Indigenous Collection highlights artwork by Indigenous creators from Canada and the US. Artists receive a commission on each puzzle sold, so these puzzles are excellent ways to support the First Nations and Native American artists directly.
Fits Puzzles is based in Vancouver, BC and features images by women artists in the Pacific Northwest - including some from here in Vancouver.
Four Point Puzzles is based in Toronto, ON. Their first puzzle offering was a circular, high-resolution image of the Moon, and they’ve continued to add quirky, geometrically inspired designs to their lineup since.
Genius Games specializes in scientifically accurate board games, and they’re clearly taking the same approach in their first forays into jigsaw puzzles. Their Dr. Livingstone line of anatomy puzzles illustrates different segments of the human body at 200% magnification - all of which can be assembled to create a scale model over 10 feet tall!
What are my alternatives if I can’t find the puzzle brand I’m looking for?
With Covid-19 causing high demand, production delays, and limited supply, it can be difficult to find the exact puzzle you’re looking for. Fortunately, some great high-quality alternatives are hitting the market.
Alternatives to Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles
Cobble Hill, Gibsons, and Galison would be your next companies to look at.
With high-quality production values and a wide variety of art styles, Cobble Hill is actually our best-selling line of puzzles by far. We have some die-hard puzzlers who came to us on a steady all-Ravensburger puzzle diet, gave a Cobble Hill puzzle a shot, and were converted.
Gibsons is similarly high-quality, even giving Ravensburger a run for its money in terms of paperboard thickness!
Or if you prefer Ravensburger's artsier patterns, try Galison - their illustrations are bold, creative, and unique.
Alternatives to Cobble Hill jigsaw puzzles
Assuming Ravensburger is off the table, Eurographics and Gibsons jigsaw puzzles would be excellent alternatives. Gibsons will come closest in style of illustrations - especially if you prefer landscape and nostalgia themes - but Eurographics is a strong contender as well.
Honestly I’m looking for something a little different
Awesome! There are so many creative puzzles hitting the market right now - you’ll be spoiled for choice. Here are a few of our favourites that offer a little something extra for everyone.
Jigsaw puzzles by Indigenous artists
The Indigenous Collection series from Canadian Art Prints features images by prominent and lesser-known Indigenous artists from across North America, including a significant number from British Columbia. The artists receive commissions for each puzzle sold, making these puzzles a great way to directly support Indigenous creators and their work.
Jigsaw puzzles as STEM / STEAM teaching tools
Four Point Puzzles' line of circular jigsaw puzzles features high-definition images of the Earth and the Moon, perfect for impromptu astronomy and geography lessons.
If your interests lean more toward the biological, the Dr. Livingstone line of anatomy puzzles from Genius Games is another great option. At the time of this writing only the head, thorax, and abdomen puzzles have been released, but for those wanting to assemble a full human body in the comfort of their own home, rest assured - arms and legs are apparently in the works!
Jigsaw puzzles for those with memory and dexterity issues
Jigsaw puzzles have been shown to improve cognition and spatial reasoning, making them excellent choices for those struggling with dementia.
Both Ravensburger and Cobble Hill offer lines of easy handling or large format jigsaw puzzles. These are jigsaw puzzles with larger pieces for those with arthritis and other dexterity issues, but featuring more mature artwork (lest they be mistaken for children’s puzzles).
Fine art jigsaw puzzles
Is a trip to The Louvre not in the cards right now? The line of fine art jigsaw puzzles from Eurographics recreates famous (and lesser-known) artworks by such luminaries as Claude Monet, Frida Kahlo, Leonardo da Vinci, Tom Thomson, and more. You’ll be amazed at the details you can discover about old classics when you spend time getting up close and personal!