The following is a collection of tips for players new to The Witness.
If all else fails, check out the Puzzle Solutions page to get some answers on the puzzles that are stumping you.
Learning through exploring
As you journey through the mysterious island, you're bound to find several puzzle panels that include odd symbols or colors that make no sense at first glance. It's often best to leave them for later, and keep exploring until you find more basic puzzle panels that introduce new mechanics more slowly and deliberately.
If you didn't fully understand why the solution to the previous puzzle(s) was right, consider working that out first. Even after you think you've understood a specific concept, it may help to refresh yourself on the rules by returning to previous puzzles and areas.
Retry already-solved puzzles in different ways to confirm and/or disprove your ideas. What is each puzzle trying to teach you?
Perspective is key
Take a step back and consider whether one of your assumptions may be wrong. Some puzzles may require some serious lateral thinking.
If a particular puzzle is giving you trouble with no obvious answer, the solution may have to do with a matter of perspective.
Whether you're just getting the hang of things or are knee deep in the toughest puzzles The Witness has to offer, never forget that sometimes the solutions are easier to grasp when you can manipulate them yourself. Get out some notepad, cut out shapes and symbols, and go to town! You'll be surprised to find new ideas when you can better visualize strategies by drawing them out.
Know when to walk away
It's easy to get frustrated on some of the later challenging puzzles, and brute forcing rarely works in these situations. If you find yourself ready to punch the screen, consider cooling off and exploring another part of the island! There are so many secrets to find, you can always come back later. Don't underestimate the power of a break.
Some quality-of-life tips
On controller, move the cursor faster by holding the input for running. While in solve mode, move between a series of puzzles using walk inputs.
What to do next
The game places a large emphasis on exploration, so don't hesitate to wander around and go wherever seems interesting.
You won't have the knowledge to immediately solve every puzzle you come across, nor does the game expect you to. The town is a notorious example of this, containing a variety of advanced puzzle types from the entire island. It may help to think of The Witness as a Metroidvania with knowledge-based power-ups.
Many puzzles have multiple solutions, and some of those solutions can have different effects on the surrounding environment. Pay close attention to puzzle panels with more than one cable connected, and see what lights up when you solve it.
Earning 100% in The Witness requires completion of all tutorial zones, the 11 main locations that contain lasers, optional side areas, bunker doors, discarded triangle panels around the island, The End sequence, and The Caves, which includes the timed and randomized Challenge.
That makes for a total of 523 puzzles.
But that begs the question...
How do I know how many puzzles I've solved?
To see how many puzzles you've solved in The Witness, bring up the pause menu and click Load Game. You should see a number next to your current save. Depending on your progress, you may even see two or three numbers.
Here's the number that a 100% game file should have, as far as current players are aware of:
523 +135 +6
The first number represents puzzles solved, the second number represents environmental puzzles completed, and the third number represents obelisks completed by finding all the associated environmental puzzles.