The White Cross
Similar to a lot of things in technology, solving the Rubik's cube is best done by breaking it down into a series of smaller problems and progressively working towards completion. In solving the cube we will start off with the top layer (the one with the white face) and progressively work towards the bottom layer (the one with the yellow face) layer by layer. The top layer will be solved in two steps, first create a white cross, then in step two we will insert the white corners.
See if you can do this step intuitively (ie without using any algorithms). This is a good way to help build up your skill and familiarity with the cube. If you get stuck however read the advice below.
In creating the white cross, it is essential that the white edge pieces are aligned so that their coloured side matches up with the corresponding coloured center pieces as in the diagram above. At this stage we don't need to worry at all about any of the other pieces so I've greyed them out.
Start by holding the cube with both hands with the white face on top (identified by it's center panel being white).
We will use the bottom layer (with yellow face) as a holding ground to manipulate our edge pieces before rotating them into position on the top layer.
The white edge pieces will be in one of three possible locations.
|On the top layer|
|On the middle layer|
|On the bottom layer|
For all of these, it doesn't matter the orientation of the edge piece (which side is white and which is coloured). We will fix that up in the next step if need be.
Now we will place each white edge piece one after the other. The order in which you place them doesn't matter.
Depending on whether your white edge piece ends up with the white panel on the yellow face or not there are two ways to slot it into place.
This one is the easiest. Simply line it up directly below where you want to slot it in then rotate the corresponding side face 180 degrees and you're done.
This one is a little more difficult, but barely. Instead of one 180 degree rotation we instead do three 90 degree rotations. We are going to slot the piece in rotating it through two of the side faces in order to twist it around so that the white panel is oriented the right way.
Line up your piece directly above where it should go then rotate it 90 degrees to the left.
This move works just the same if you rotate 90 degrees to the right as well.
Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you want to move a piece but doing so will move another piece you have already placed. Don't worry, this is easy to get past.
Notice we were smart in what we did here. There were two options for moving the piece down to the bottom layer. The blue face could also have been rotated to get the piece down to the bottom layer. This would have had the effect of putting the piece in the wrong orientation (the white panel would not have been facing down). Often, choosing the right way to move a piece down to the bottom layer can orient the piece correctly in the process saving you some time.
Although we are starting with the white face there is nothing stopping you from starting with another face. The cube is symmetrical on all three axis so it really doesn't matter which face you start from. Speed cubists often look at the whole cube and start with the side which is quickest to solve which can save you a good few seconds with a bit of experience. Practice creating the cross (and the other steps as you learn them) starting from faces other than the white face so you can easily adapt.
Another good thing to try is to see if you can place the four edges without reorienting the cube. That is, if you start off with the red face pointing at you (for instance), keep the red face pointing at you at all times. This will help to build your mental image of the cube (making it easier to visualise how the later, more complex stages work) and also help shave off precious seconds that you don't need to waste rotating the whole cube.