Solving the Rubik’s Cube: The Top Layer
The Top Layer
This page will teach you how to solve the first of three layers of the Rubik’s Cube. But, before jumping into this how-to, familiarize yourself with what edge pieces and center pieces are, which you can read about in the glossary.
By the end of this section you will have accomplished two goals, resulting in the top layer being solved, which will look like this:
The First Goal: Solve the cross
Choose a color face to solve first. In this how-to, we will solve the cross on the White Face.
Here’s what the CORRECT cross looks like:
Notice how the colors of the edge pieces match the colors of the center pieces? Good thing you read the glossary, so you know what I’m talking about.
And here’s an example of what an INCORRECT cross looks like:
In order to solve the cross, you will need to place the following 4 edge pieces:
While searching around the cube for these edge pieces, keep a finger on the White center piece to help you keep track of what’s up and what’s down. By the way, what’s up? Solving a Rubik’s cube? How fun!
Place each edge piece between its corresponding center pieces e.g. the White-Red edge piece between the White and Red center pieces as shown below.
You will be able to place each of the edge pieces without consulting a long list of short algorithms, but here is an example to get you started (You’re welcome!):
The Problem: The White-Red edge piece is in the correct location, but the colors are not oriented properly.
The Solution: Move the White-Red edge piece out of its current location so we can correct its orientation until it’s ready to be placed back where it belongs.
Now we’re left with this:
The Problem: The White-Red edge piece’s colors are correctly oriented (it’s hard to tell, so you’ll have to trust me), but it’s in the incorrect location.
The Solution: Place the White-Red edge piece back in its location in some other way than the reverse of how we just took it out.
Nice! We got one! Now just place the other 3 edge pieces to form the cross one at a time, applying some of the same basic strategy you just learned. Or not! There is more than one way to solve a Rubik’s Cube, and you may very well stumble across some better way than the example shown, but if you do, don’t go writing your own competing blog okay? Sadly, this is all I have.
Anyway, aside from the example above, here’s a very helpful hint you should keep in mind while forming the cross: Do not rotate the top layer after correctly placing an edge piece. Consider this example. Let’s say that after placing the White-Red edge piece, you look at the left side of your cube and see this:
The White-Orange edge piece is in the top layer. Because we read the glossary, we know that the Orange center piece is to the left of the Green center piece. So, in order to place the White-Orange edge piece in the correct location, we just need to rotate the top layer clockwise, right? Right! BUT, that means we end up with this:
The White-Orange edge piece is in its correct location, but now the White-Red edge piece is not. So—as stated earlier—after correctly placing an edge piece, do not rotate the top layer any more, even if it means solving another edge piece. Does this mean that you shouldn’t move parts of the top layer i.e. the front, back, left, and right layers? Of course not! Just do not rotate the top layer as a whole, as that will result in the problem shown in the above illustration.
After you’ve solved the cross, we can move on to the second goal. Take your time, I’ll just busy myself by reading that awesome and totally useful glossary.
The Second Goal: Place the corners
In order to complete the Top Layer, you will need to place the following 4 corner pieces:
Instead of illustrating the many, many possible cube configurations and their solutions, I will provide the annotated solution to the most complicated set-up for your convenience, followed by some general advice:
The Problem: The White-Green-Orange corner piece is in the correct location, but the colors are not oriented properly.
The Solution: Without rotating the top layer, move the White-Green-Orange corner piece out of its location. Then, repair the cross so we that we don’t lose any progress.
Now we’re left with this:
The Problem: In moving the White-Green-Orange corner piece, we changed it to the correct color orientation, but now it’s in the incorrect location. We need to put it back in the correct location, but in some other manner than the way we took it out. Sound familiar?
So, we need to place the White-Green-Orange corner piece to left of the White-Green edge piece, but we can’t change their relation to each other as long as they are on the same layer, since no matter which direction or how many times you rotate a layer, all of the pieces on that layer will never change their relation to the other pieces on that layer.
Go ahead and rotate a layer to see what I mean.
The Solution: Rotate the White-Green-Orange corner piece out of the same layer as the Green center piece. Then place it in the correct location.
Now we’re left with this:
The Problem: The White-Green-Orange corner piece is correctly oriented, but in the incorrect location.
The Solution: Without rotating the top layer, which messes up the cross, place the White-Green-Orange corner piece next to its matching White-Green edge piece and repair the cross.
The fundamental lesson you should take away from these examples and explanations is that solving the top layer is simply a matter of identifying the small obstacles preventing you from placing a specific piece, and then thinking through the simple ways around them.
After placing all 4 corners one at a time, you’ve solved the first layer. Congratulations!
Tip: You will find that you might mistakenly undo parts of the first layer while attempting to solve the second layer, so I recommend you practice solving the first layer until you can do it rather quickly and without too much thought.
Did you practice? Cool, now let’s solve that second layer.