Adobe Illustrator: Creating Charts

Screencast from the live session of ASCJ 200

Use Adobe Illustrator to create custom charts and graphs to represent your data! The software can even help you do the math. Follow this tutorial to see how you can use the Rotate Tool and Chart Tool to create customized graphs.

Creating a Pie Chart and/or Donut Graph

1) Use the Ellipse Tool to click and drag and create a circle. Give the circle a Fill of None and Black Stroke. We’ll be creating a Donut Graph.

Note: If you want to create a Pie Chart, give the circle a fill of black and no stroke.


2) If you’re creating a Donut Graph, select the circle with the Selection Tool and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. If creating a Pie Chart, skip to the next step.

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3) Next, use the Line Segment Tool to create a straight line from the center of the circle. Use Smart Guides to make one exactly in the center. Hold down Shift as you click and drag to keep the line straight. Then, give the line a colored stroke that is easy to see.


4) Select the line with the Selection Tool and then click on the Rotate Tool. Hold down Option + click on the center of the circle. This tells Illustrator what point you want the line to rotate around.

Then, let Illustrator do that math! For this graph, I want it to show 40%. For your reference: 1 degree = 3.6 , so we’ll type in 3.6*40 in the Angle field. Hit tab and Illustrator will calculate what that equals. Make sure you have Preview checkmarked and you will be able to see where the line moves. Then click on Copy. This will duplicate the line and move it that many degrees.


5) Using the Selection tool, select the circle and both lines that you’ve created. Open up the Pathfinder if it’s already open. (Go to Window > Pathfinder). Then choose Divide.

This splits your circle into two segments – one 40% and one 60% segment.


6) Select the new segmented circle with the Selection tool and go to Object > Ungroup. This separate the two segments into 2 separate elements. Then use the Selection tool to select each segment individually and change the fill colors. I made the 40% segment a darker shade, so that it pops.


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Customizing the Look of Your Graph

Next, we’ll show you how you can better customize your graph by adding text and stylizing the segments.

1) First, we’ll add text in the center of the graph to further emphasize 40%. Select the Type Tool and click and drag to draw a box. Change the font to whatever you’d like and increase the size of the font until is readable. If the text gets bigger than the frame you created, use the Selection Tool to drag the corners of the box larger.


2) Select the 40% segment and choose the “Draw Inside” mode Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.59.50 PM. Then, make sure you click on the artboard to deselect the segment. Then, choose the Line Segment Tool. I’ll change the fill to None and the Stroke color to the light green color.


3) Click and drag while holding down Shift to draw a line near the top of the segment. Then select the Selection Tool, hold down Alt until you see a double arrow, then click and drag the line you just created a little lower, and then let go of your mouse. This will create a duplicate of the line but moved down.


4) Just like we did in the Shapes tutorial with the sun, we’ll use Command + D to duplicate that action over and over again. This will create the rest of the lines. Once you’re done, go back to Draw Normal mode DrawNormal.


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Creating a Bar Graph

Next, we’ll show you how to create a bar graph with the built-in Graph Tool in Illustrator.

1) Select the Column Graph Tool  Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 4.18.01 PM and click and drag to start your bar graph. A dialog box will open for you to input your data. Type in your data points from left to right. I inputted 24, 57, 96, and 19, but feel free to input whatever numbers you’d like. You have to click on the Check Mark to commit the changes.

If you ever lose the data window, simply click on the graph with the Selection Tool and then go to Object > Graph > Data.

Note: Each row is a set of bar graphs. If you input another row of data points, it will create a second set of bars.


2) For our purposes, we want to customize the graph, so we’ll ungroup the bar graph. Using the Selection Tool, select the bar graph and go to Object > Ungroup.  A dialog box will pop up prompting you that ungrouping the graph makes the data uneditable – click Yes. Now you can customize it however you want but you won’t be able to change the inputted values.


3)Click on the bars and go to Object > Ungroup. Then you can click on each individual bar and change the fill and stroke color to whatever you’d like.


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Customizing or Manipulating your Bar Graph

Your bar graph can now be manipulated to look any way you want. You can make the bars skinnier or use the graph to help you create a custom graph. I’ll show you what I mean below. We’re going to use the bar graph we just created to create a horizontal custom bar graph that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 9.54.57 AM1) Select the bar graph you just created and rotate it sideways. I also adjusted the bar to be skinnier, so I have more space.


2) Make sure your rulers are showing. If not, go to View > Rulers > Show Rulers

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3) From the rulers, drag out guides to each end at the 0 and the 100 and then at the end of each bar.


4) Use the Line Segment Tool to draw a line between the 0 and 100. Use the guides you just created to help you do that. Click and drag and hold down Shift as you do it. Remember that holding down Shift keeps it in a straight line.

Then, give the line a grey stroke and set it to 8pt.


5) Give the stroke a Round Cap.

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6) Use the Selection Tool to deselect the line you just created. Click anywhere on the artboard to deselect the line. Then choose the Line Segment Tool again and click and drag between the first bar. Give the stroke the same green color as the first bar and set it at 14pt. Give it a rounded cap as well.


7) Copy the grey line you just created. To do this, use the Selection tool, hold down Alt, and click and drag the line down. This creates a copy of it. Then let go of the mouse.


8) Now repeat the steps until you have done it for each bar!

9) Once you’ve got all the lines. Group each of the grey line and its corresponding colored line together by selecting the lines with the Selection tool and going to Object > Group. Do this for each of the  line groups.


10) Next we’ll spread out the lines more and use the Align panel to help us make the space between each line equal. Use the Selection Tool to bring the lines down more. Then select all of the lines. Choose Align to Selection and then choose the button that distributes them evenly horizontally Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 2.55.14 PM.


11) Next we’ll create a marker that tells you what percentage each line is. Click on the Rectangle Tool and click and drag to create a small square near the first line. Give it a grey fill and no stroke.


12) Next, we’ll draw a triangle to give it a pointer. Select the Polygon Tool and click and drag. While clicking and dragging, you can use the up and down arrow to add and subtract the number of sides to your shape. Mostly likely, you’ll need to click the down arrow until you have a triangle. Rotate it to the right while holding down Shift and place it next to the square.


13) Select the Type Tool and click anywhere on the artboard to start a type area. Type in 15%. Highlight the text and change the font to whatever you’d like. Increase the size, so it better fits into the square. Then use the Selection Tool to drag it into the middle of the square.


14) To make things even easier, we’ll simply copy the marker we just made for the rest of the lines and just change the text. Use the Selection Tool to select the marker and then while holding down Alt, click and drag another marker down for the next bar.  Then use the Type Tool to type in a different number. Repeat this until you have a marker for each bar.


And now you should have a graph that looks like the one I showed at the beginning:

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