Illustrator has a lot of strengths as a program for creating vector graphics. Many designers don’t realize Illustrator has a secret weapon (ok it’s not really a secret, more like an under utilized feature) in the Chart tool. Today I’ll show you three ways to be more awesome at creating charts in Illustrator.
The Chart Tool Doesn’t Get No Respect
Why don’t more people use it? Since it was first introduced several years ago, other areas of Illustrator have been streamlined while the Charts tool has languished in all its clunky glory. It is confusing to use and has a UI that is not at all intuitive. Once you know how to use it though, it is an immense time saver.
Why Even Bother Designing Charts in Illustrator?
We will still need to color it and decide about displaying numbers, but we now have an editable graph that we can adjust size, color and effects on. Once we have it looking the way we want, we can easily reuse it for other pie charts or go back and edit the data.
Way 2: Create a Chart and Enter Data Manually
I’ve covered how to create a pie chart in a previous post and am working on a guide that covers other types of graphs and charts as well. This method works fine for small charts or if you have to format the data a specific way for it to process the chart correctly. The steps are the same in Illustrator as Way 1, except you will enter the labels and data in by hand.
Way 3: Draw a Chart using a Spreadsheet or Other Reference
Many designers use the shape or pen tools to draw their charts. For simple projects it is quicker, but in the long run that is not sustainable. When I have done this, I always use a spreadsheet chart or other reliable source to make sure my data is represented accurately. My big caution to you here is to make sure your data is shown accurately when using this method. It is very easy to get the sizes of individual chart items wrong when you go back and make edits since you don’t have live data to work with. The good reasons to do this are speed and flexibility of styling and text layout for small or quick projects. It is not evil or bad to do it this way, just a smart use of limited time.
So how can you do this? Bar charts are super easy, just use the rectangle shape tools or pen tool to draw the size you need for each item, then use the line tool to make any tick marks or chart lines. You can also use any other vector object to represent items by size or quantity. For example, in our pets in households example, Dogs could be larger than cats, rabbits larger than birds, or there could be four and a half dogs. The pathfinder tool is your friend here if you need to make pie charts.
What questions do you have about creating charts in Illustrator?