Anything Photoshop or Photography


Creative digital art image

Decided to start the New Year off doing something different. I had been working on this really intricate Taj Mahal Jigsaw Puzzle and got to wondering why did I enjoy doing this so much? Then I started looking at all the pretty colors and the intricate things the subjects were doing and realized this was a pretty impressive puzzle. Even the painting strokes were interesting, especially in the sky. It appears that many puzzles are made by very serious painters and much research is done to correctly finalize them. The image above did not actually use a separate puzzle effect as created below – it used the background of a phone image from one of my put-together puzzles for the effect. See Image One below for how this was done and what resources were used. This to me was what I wanted to create, but then I decided it would be interesting to learn how the actual puzzle effects for Photoshop were made. So below is what I learned.

The big question was how do you get the Puzzle Effect? These are the choices I found:

  1. Use an overlay that can be downloaded from the internet. I created a free basic Jigsaw Puzzle overlay for you to download on my DeviantArt site since I could not find a free link.
  2. Download the Free Puzzle Pieces action by Bojan Zivkovic from Adobe Exchange (can do a search on the internet for it and then just log into the Creative Cloud to download – a zipped file goes into your download folder along with a nice PDF on how to use it. It will create 2 – 192 puzzle pieces all placed on individual layers.
  3. Go to the Layer Styles panel and click the little upper right icon – in drop down select Select Legacy Styles & More -> All Legacy Default Styles -> Image -> Puzzle. When the style is applied, in the Bevel and Emboss Texture section, there is an Adobe Puzzle Pattern. More on this in Example of Step 3.

See examples for each Jigsaw Effect below.

Example of Step 1: This image was finalized before adding the effect. It was created by following Maddy Bellwoar’s video tutorial on Behance called Painting Beautiful Birds in Photoshop. Her videos are a wonderful way to learn to draw and paint. Now the Jigsaw Puzzle overlay could be added.

Drawn and painted image of a robin

Just use Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust the overlay if needed – it is set to a 2:3 aspect ratio (can rotate to 3:2 for Portrait view as shown above). Use layer masks, adjustment layers (try clipping it to the puzzle layer – right click and choose Create Clipping Mask), layer styles including Blend If sliders, blending modes and layer opacity can be adjusted. (The settings for the robin image above were as follows: The jigsaw overlay layer was set to Luminosity blend mode to start; double clicked on this layer to bring up its Layer Style and used the Stroke effect – set Fill Type to Color and sampled a light color from the image and selected a slightly lighter Color, Size 8, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, and Opacity 100%; and opened the Bevel & Emboss effect and set Style to Emboss for more of a puzzle effect, Technique to Chisel Soft, Direction Down, Size 16 and Soften 0, Highlight Mode Screen at 48% opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply at 55% opacity. The layer was set to 46% opacity.) Definitely play with the sliders in the Layer Style – the Bevel and Emboss settings can really make some cool looks on the piece edges.


Image of an electric guitar player from Pixabay with puzzle effect applied

Example of Step 2: This action is very easy to use and there is a great short video on how to do this called How to Create Puzzle Effect in Photoshop by ReVon. Basically the biggest thing you need to worry about is the Aspect Ratio of your image so the action runs correctly. Open Image -> Image Size to see how large your image really is – this one was 6″ X 4″ roughly or a 3:2 aspect ratio. Go to the Crop Tool and set an Aspect Ratio that works if needed. Load the Puzzle.atn (just double-click on the action in the Explorer and it puts it in the Action Panel in PS). Open the action to see lots of choices – just beware that each puzzle piece is going on a separate layer so if the image is large, watch the size of the file. This image (called Pixabay Electric Guitar) was set to 3:2 aspect ratio and 54 piece set. When running the action, the top left puzzle piece will be highlighted, and the Drop Shadow Effect (it was turned if off for the above) and Bevel & Emboss Effect (used Depth of 100, Size 3) will be checked and can be adjusted before applying it to all pieces. He has included another action called Change Layer Style to use if you do not like the effect results when finished. The Puzzle action creates a New Document so the original file is not affected. To remove a piece(s), select the Move Tool and hold CTRL + click over the piece to be removed or turn off the layer eyeball on left. This actually gives a pretty nice result and is fast. Read the accompanying PDF for more tips. The Jigsaw brushes from Image One were used on a layer above the puzzle pieces and a Photofocus Sepiatone LUT (not sure where to find it)I at 65% layer opacity.


Guitar Man from Pixabay with puzzle effect on it.

Example of Step 3: Here is another type of puzzle effect that used an old Adobe Pattern for the puzzle template that PS provided with PS2019. (Who knew?) (Used my favorite ISO Republic Guitar Man for a subject.) Download it as discussed in Step 3 above. To find it, double click your layer to open the Layer Style and on the top left, select Styles – go down to the bottom and Puzzle should be listed there. You can see that it has a Bevel & Emboss effect applied to it along with a Texture. The Texture is the key to this puzzle effect – go into the Texture and you will see a Pattern that looks like a puzzle preset. Here you can Scale the piece size for your image (slide right for larger size up to 1000% – this image used 695%). I found turning off the Invert button and changing the Depth to +297 gave a more realistic puzzle look. The pattern can also be dragged around in the image to line it up right. Need to check in the Blending Options area the “Layer Mask Hides Effects” so the next step can be done. Say Okay and add a Layer Mask to the image. Paint out in the mask the little tabs from the edges to look like edge pieces. Create a stamped layer (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and underneath fill a New Layer with a background color – then add a Layer Mask to the stamped layer and paint out puzzle pieces to remove the puzzle pieces as if the puzzle is not done. This process definitely takes a more effort.


Digital art image of some beautiful arrows and feathers

Used a different jigsaw pattern (that is no long available on the internet) on the above. After loading the Pattern into PS, the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was scaled to the Puzzle using a Scale of 110% for the Arrows image – it fit pretty good, but this will depend on the size of your image and the size of the pieces wanted. Then the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was duplicated and rasterized by right clicking on the pattern and the original adjustment turned off by clicking on the layer eyeball. Why did I do this? So the Free Transform command could be used to adjust the edges exactly right. A Layer Mask was added to the rasterized layer and the tabs on the edges were painted out. The overall puzzle layer was set to 32% layer opacity so as not to overtake the elements in the image. See Image Two below for more info on creating the design.

Bottom Line is to use whatever works for you. I think the Adobe Free Action has a lot of possibilities but I did not spend that much time using it. I hope you at least enjoyed finding out the different ways the puzzle effect can be applied and what different results occur. Stay warm…….Digital Lady Syd


Image One: Of course, the first image above was just for fun – got some new resources this past month and thought I would try out a few. But the actual background puzzle image is one worked awhile ago of bird stamps (Finchley Paper Arts from Milton Bradley) – a phone image of the finished piece was taken and was placed over a Rusty 3 Vintage Paper by Suna Kosem. To get the paper to show up, used Blend If This Layer settings (56/138 and 162/255). A layer mask was used to paint the pieces off the face. (The face is from an old free brush set on Deviant Art called Phrenology Photoshop brushes by hogret.) The individual Jigsaw Puzzle pieces were from jigsaw(set07)briarrose_icons and are also available from Deviant Art. The Puzzled font is one of my very favorites called Everleigh Serif Font by Gleb Guralnyk – along with the paper, these items were in a Christmas $5 bundle from Design Cuts. Twice a year they run a great deal on some of their best items. The font at the bottom is Rosabelia SLDT, one I have been using a while – just like the way it looks, and it was from Creative Market, another great resource spot (check out their Free Goodies of the Week – this is how I got this font).

Image Two: The rest of the Arrow image was just adding a few arrows and feathers from the same Design Cuts set – this one was called Boho Arrows Clip Art – then changing the colors and adding some layers styles. I really like the pretty arrows so I wanted to try some type of creative image with them. To get the individual loose puzzle pieces from the actual image, a couple of the jigsaw pieces were painted out in Quick Mask to select them. They were put on separate layers and spun a little. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set’s Delfine Grunge (not sure it is still available) was the background texture (one of my favorites sets from her). It was a lot of fun to do!

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