A Hands-On Photo Cube Puzzle

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Article courtesy Scrapjazz.com; by Andrea Steed

I've always been intrigued by photo cube puzzles. Each side of every cube is unique. The images fit together perfectly to create a full design and the cubes can even be rearranged to make new designs. It becomes a fluid scrapbook page. Photo cube puzzles are the perfect mix of functional entertainment, decoration, and memory keeping. What better way to share your craft than by making a hands-on project for family and guests to enjoy while you visit?

When I first saw the Carolee's Creations Conversation Tray and nine cubes, I could already picture my husband fiddling with them and 1_160making different collages while we sat and talked. I knew it would make a great coffee table addition, but I was waiting for just the right content to do the project.

Recently we went on a beach vacation with all of my husband's family. We took well over 800 photos of the trip, and I knew I wanted to do something special to remember the vacation. My photo cube project started taking form and became a six-page mini album and table-top puzzle.

Project: Beach Vacation Puzzle

With just a little bit of planning, a few embellishments and papers from my stash, this project came together quickly and easily.



  1. Assemble the nine cubes by using the pre-cut notches and scored lines for folding.

  2. Label the sides of boxes with letters A through F. Each letter will represent the nine squares that make up one full layout design. Later, when you begin gluing the elements of your layout designs, you'll know which sides correspond to each other.


    If you want each cube to remain in the same location for every layout (i.e. the top left corner cube is always the top left corner for each layout), you can also label each side with the numbers 1 through 9. I started to create my project that way, and then later decided it would be more interesting to mix up the placement of each cube to make the final project more of a puzzle. Then, the numbers became a way for me to be sure that I'd mixed the cubes up well before gluing down a new layout design.

  3. Plan six 9" x 9" layouts that can easily be cut into 3" x 3" cubes. Then apply each layout to a corresponding letter on the cubes. I jotted down my ideas and then sketched out rough designs based on the type of layout I was creating. One sketch indicates a large photograph divided up among the nine squares, and the other shows nine individual photographs to create a collage design. My project uses three of each style of layout to represent different aspects of our trip.


  4. Create all six 9" x 9" layouts. I chose to create each layout as nine 3" x 3" squares to begin with, rather than creating one 9" x 9" layout and later trimming it, but either way would work well. Working with the smaller squares helped me visualize the final project better as I was designing each page.

    I began by laying out the photographs I wanted to use for each page.


    Next, I filled in the gaps with patterned papers, embellishments, rub-ons, stickers, etc. to create the finished pages. It was helpful to create all of the pages at the same time so that I could ensure that the colors, overall design and embellishments would flow nicely from one side to another and wouldn't clash or conflict.


    The important thing for this project is to think FLAT designs so that the cubes will lie nicely next to each other without spaces between them.


  5. Once all of the pages are designed, just start gluing! I used a foam brush and Mod Podge to attach each square to the cubes, making sure to put all of layout "A" onto the "A" side of nine cubes and so on...


    Be sure to completely cover each the side of the cube with glue, and meticulously press the photographs/paper designs across the entire side of the cube to avoid bubbles, paying close attention to the edges and corners.

    Continue this process until all six layouts have been adhered to the cubes. Remember to mix up the order of the cubes before gluing each layout to create a fun puzzle.

  6. When the glue has dried, and all of the cubes are covered, I recommend adding a sealant coat to each cube to help protect the photographs and papers. You can either do another layer of Mod Podge over each side of the cubes, or use a spray sealant, or both. I chose to use a spray sealant because I wanted to avoid any brush marks on the final design. Also, I was concerned about the Mod Podge creating a sticky finish, and thickening the cubes too much. They already had a snug fit inside the conversation tray and I didn't want to crowd them any more.

  7. Add a coat of black spray paint and a coat of sealant to the wooden conversation tray.

  8. Finally, every puzzle needs a guide, so next I assembled each layout, placed it in the conversation tray, and then turned the whole thing upside down on my scanner bed to scan the six layouts.

    Then I printed a map of all the layouts onto a piece of paper, mounted it to black cardstock, and placed it in the bottom of the conversation tray beneath the cubes.


Now, take a deep breath, understand that there will be finger prints, worn edges, and "love" on these cubes as little and big hands get a hold of them. Set it on your coffee table, and watch your family and guests enjoy playing with your mini-album puzzle.

Additional Photo Cube Tips & Ideas

A six-sided mini-album isn't all these photo cubes can do. Here are several additional ideas over at Scrapjazz.com for creating photo cube or puzzle games using this product and others like it:


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