We often create graphs using software like Microsoft Excel, or, for more sophisticated features, Python or Octave. However, we can also create fully-functioning graphs within Adobe Illustrator.
To experiment with Illustrator's graphs features we first go to the File drop-down menu and create a new document. Next, choose the Graph tool which sits about half-way down the vertical toolbar on the left-hand side of the interface. We then click and drag the tool on the art-board thus creating the width and height of the displayed graph. This can easily be changed later in the process if necessary.
At this stage, we find ourselves presented with a dialog box and grid into which we enter our numerical data. Alternatively, we could copy and paste data from Microsoft Excel into Illustrator at this juncture. If we would like our numbers to display within an axis, we should add inverted commas to the numbers, for example, "2017". When we have thus entered all our data we then select the check box at the top right corner of the data dialog box. At this point, a default styled bar chart in grey-scale tones will appear on our art-board.
We now may wish to edit the look and feel of the graph further - to do so we simply right-click on the graph itself to select the option of Type. Next, we select a style from the presented menu. Try, for example, the Area Graph style and at this point, the graph on the page will update accordingly. It's also possible at any point in the process to right-click on the graph in order to edit our Data or to change its Style. We could also use the Group Selection tool, which is grouped behind the Direct Select tool (the white arrow) in order to change the colours or possibly to add patterns to the graph.
If we now wish to alter the size of the graph we could use Illustrator's Scale tool to scale it up on the art-board. Further customization may be done via the right-click options: we could choose Type in order to check the Add Drop Shadow box. Another option is to check the box marked Legend Across Top. The Column width could be adjusted to 100 and the Cluster width to 80. In the Type section, we could change the Graph Options to Value Axis, for example. Tick Marks could be changed to Length and Full Width with a Prefix of $ or approx. The best way to experiment with the options is just to try them out - many companies will, of course, have preferred styles in their Corporate Style Guide.
We can add some extra design elements by converting our Illustrator graph into a set of 3D objects. It's always a good idea to first copy the graph to one side since it can be difficult to undo some functions when we close the file. We would then right-click on the graph to choose Ungroup. Please note that after it's been ungrouped we can't regroup later in order to edit the data. It's now possible to pull apart the various elements of the graph with the Selection tool in order to apply certain visual styles from the top Effect drop-down menu, for example, the 3-D option of Extrude & Bevel. Check the bottom left Preview box and experiment with the various options.
Tom Gillan has been training Adobe Illustrator to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses at Design Workshop Sydney.