What you’ll need to begin:

  • THE BOX in which your puzzle came (hopefully, with a picture of the completed puzzle on it);
  • A typical 3-in-1 style printer-scanner-copier (with ink, of course);
  • Photo paper (I’d use gloss finish, depending on the puzzle);
  • Microsoft Paint (which is on virtually every computer, new or old, running Windows);
  • A FINE POINT pen (to make it easier to outline, you might just pull the cartridge out of the shell of the pen);
  • A scissors;
  • A piece of CARDBOARD (thickness also depending upon the puzzle);
  • Krazy Glue (brush-on is probably the easiest to use);
  • An X-ACTO knife.

Project Steps

Opening and Scanning from Microsoft Paint

If you’re running Windows, you can access Microsoft Paint through the START button: either by selecting Accessories; or by entering mspaint.exe in the RUN command window.

Turn on your 3-in-1 device, and place a good picture of the completed puzzle (from the box presumably) on its scanning surface. It doesn’t really matter if you get the entire image of the puzzle in your scan; but rather, that you successfully copy the area you need to duplicate pieces from. Most likely, you’re going to start out with a scan image that is PROPORTIONATE, but also smaller than the actual completed puzzle. Do try to get as much of the image as you possibly can (it’ll make things easier later).

Once in Paint: go to FILE, and select “From Scanner or Camera.” This will pop-up a smaller window with a button that says “Scan”. Select to scan; and then wait for the image to completely visualize on screen.

Scanning and Cropping your Puzzle Box

A preview of the scan of your puzzle box will appear in the open window, after you press the “Preview” button. If you need to CROP your image, look for the squares on the edge of the dash-lines that appear around the image; and then simply drag these to cut off everything but the puzzle.

In the example: you can see that I had a circular puzzle; and in fact, part of the box image was also just a tad too big for the scan surface to capture entirely. Again, what is more important really, is that you get a good scan of the area of the puzzle that you need to duplicate (in my case, it was the woman’s knee). Even still, I cropped my scan to just the edge of the puzzle, as best I could.

Likely, your puzzle box image is small by comparison; which means, you’re going to need to ENLARGE the scanned image you create. Before we accomplish this though, let’s make sure everything remains proportionate, in the next step…

Measurement via the Attributes Tool

A nifty feature that comes as part of the Paint program, is the “Attributes” tool, found under the IMAGE menu. Selecting this will give precise measures of your scan, in any of three units (inches, centimeters, or pixels, if you prefer).

Again, in my example: note that the my “width” and “height” dimensions ought to match (because it’s a circular puzzle, and ought to have a diameter equal to either measurement), though they do not. This is simply on account of my box image being larger than the scan surface of my 3-in-1. And as such: I need to account for the missing area, before I can go any further. MEASURE the dimensions of your box image with a RULER, if necessary.

If need be also, in your own case: entering a number in either “width” or “height” will simply extend the area of the scan without distorting the picture. A blank white area will then appear in place of any missing part of the scan image. Do this to match the real-life dimensions of your puzzle box image.

Once again: the result is likely a smaller image; but only now at least it is proportionate to the full-scale puzzle. You are now ready to dilate the image, in the next step…

Making a Proportionate Image of Equal Size

Make a note of the actual dimensions of the completed puzzle (usually found on the front or side of the box). Then, go back to the IMAGE menu on the task bar, and select “Stretch and Skew.”

In the entry fields for “Horizontal” and “Vertical”, you can enter a number either larger than 100%, or smaller (100% being the size of the image, as it currently appears on screen; and a number either greater or lesser than 100, enlarging or reducing its size, respectively). Determining what percentage to enter requires a little math…

My puzzle, for example, ought to be = 19.5 inches across. However, my scan is only = 9.47 inches across⎯so the scan image obviously has to be enlarged! DIVIDING these two numbers (the ACTUAL PUZZLE Dimension ÷ the SCAN IMAGE Dimension) provides us with a useful RATIO.

Mathematically speaking: a ratio can be expressed as a decimal number; which, in turn, can be expressed as a percentage. So the scheme is: convert our RATIO ➙ to a DECIMAL ➙ to a PERCENTAGE.

TO ENLARGE THE SCAN: the greater number is written on top in the ratio (which is the same as the larger number being entered into a calculator 1st)… 19.5 / 9. 47 ➙ 19.5 ÷ 9. 47 = 2.0591341077085533262935586061246. Or ≈ 2.06 ➙ 206%.

So that means, in my case, I have to plug the number 206, in each of the “Stretch” entry fields for “Horizontal” and “Vertical” %. Doing so will enlarge my scan image to match the actual dimensions of the completed puzzle. Yay! :)

If instead, you need to reduce the scan size: the greater number would be written as the bottom of the ratio (which is same as that number being entered into a calculator 2nd); and then divided as before. Once you have your decimal figure, always move your decimal point TWICE to the right (which is the same as multiplying by 100, to form a percent). Round to the nearest whole percent.

Precision Printing to Save Ink

Now, rather than waste ink or printer paper: scroll over to the area you need to make a puzzle piece from. Select the cutting icon from the Paint tools (along the left side of the screen), and proceed to chop out the area that you want in particular.

Then: go up to FILE again; open a “New” Paint window; and paste this section from the old window into the new one.

To see if the image now fits on a single page, before printing: under “FILE” select “Print Preview”. If it makes a better fit for printing: change the print area from “Portrait” to “Landscape” style; or try narrowing the area again with the cutting tool. To change the print settings (from portrait to landscape), choose “Page Setup”, and select either setting from the pop-up window.

Depending on the puzzle, you might print in either matte or gloss finish. Remember, of course, to load your printer tray with at least one page of either type of photo paper–and then print!

Tracing a New Piece

Once you’ve printed: place the photo print beneath the hole in your puzzle; and then try to align the two, by judging from the pattern.

Next, carefully trace the outer edge of the hole in your puzzle, onto the underlying photo print.

Fabrication, Part I: Gluing

To save glue (which is also an eye irritant): I cut down the photo area to just a simple square, slightly larger than the outline of my puzzle hole.

I next cut out a slightly larger square of cardboard. You can use corrugated cardboard, like I did; but if you can find a thick enough piece of scrap cardstock-esque cardboard, I would use that instead (it makes cutting less arduous).

Just to avoid the possibility of getting glued fingers, you might choose to wear some rubber gloves from this point onward. :)

Finally: apply quick drying, clear adhesive to the back of the photo paper; and then press it to the cardboard. I prefer brush-on Krazy Glue for this purpose.

Fabrication, Part II: Cutting

The last step is a little tedious. But generally, the more time you take, the better the outcome. Using an X-acto knife: carefully trace the outline of the missing puzzle piece, repeatedly; until you’ve pierced through each later of material, all the way around. TAKE YOUR TIME!

Invariably, some of the photo ink will chip while cutting. So, to better blend your homemade piece within your completed puzzle: you might just dab a felt tip marker along the edges; using a similar color, or several if necessary.


Here are results from two different puzzles I’ve done. In the second example, there were actually two pieces missing from the manufacturer. Fortunately, they were adjacent; so I just made one large piece to replace them both.


You can do it! :)