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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Vector
Design

Create a Simple Line Graph in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a simple line graph in Adobe Illustrator. For starters you will learn how to setup a simple grid and how to create the two main rectangles. Next, you will learn how to create a dashed grid using the Rectangular Grid Tool along with some basic effects and Stroke attributes. Moving on you will learn how to create the line guides using only the Appearance panel and how to save and use a simple graphic style. Finally, you will learn how create some simple pieces of text and how to add subtle shading.

1. Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 600 in the width and height boxes then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). For starters you will need a grid every 5px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid, it will ease your work and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-" keyboard shortcut. You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Line Graph

2. Create the Background and the Main Shape

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on your Toolbar. Remove the color from the stroke then select the fill and set its color at R=40 G=35 B=45. Simply click on your artboard to open the Rectangle window. Enter 610 in the Width and Height boxes then click the OK button to create your 610px square. 

Next, you need to center this new shape, so open the Align panel (Window > Align). Set the aligning to Artboard (open the fly out menu and go to Show Options if you can't see the Align To section as shown in the following image) then simply click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons. In the end your square should cover the entire artboard as shown in the following image. 

Move to the Layers panel (Window > Layers), open the existing layer, simply double-click on your shape and rename it "background".

Line Graph

Step 2

Make sure that the Rectangle Tool (M) is still active, set the fill color at R=30 G=61 B=81, create a 475px square and place it roughly as shown in the following image. Move to the Layers panel and simply rename this new shape "main".

Line Graph

3. Create the Dashed Grid

Step 1

Focus on your Toolbar, remove the color from the fill then select the stroke and set the color at white (R=255 G=255 B=255). Keep focusing on your Toolbar and select the Rectangular Grid Tool to open the Rectangular Grid Tool Options window. Simply click on your artboard, enter all the attributes shown in the following image then click the OK button. Make sure that this new grid is selected and place it exactly as shown in the first image, the Snap to Grid feature should ease your work.

Line Graph

Step 2

Make sure that your entire grid is still selected and simply hit Shift-Control-G to Ungroup it. Select the rectangle that frames your grid and simply hit the Delete button from your keyboard to remove it. In the end things should look like in the second image.

Line Graph

Step 3

Keep focusing on your grid, select the ten horizontal paths and open the Transform panel (Window > Transform). Make sure that the Constrain Width and Height Proportions button is not activated and simply enter 360px in the Width box. In the end things should look like in the second image.

Line Graph

Step 4

Make sure that all your white paths are selected, focus on the Appearance panel and simply click on that "Stroke" piece of text to open the Stroke fly-out panel. Check the Dashed Line box and the Align Dashes to Corners and path ends buttons then simply enter 5px in the first two dash and gap boxes. In the end things should look like in the following image.

Line Graph

Step 5

Make sure that all your white paths are selected and simply hit Control-G to Group them. Next, you need to make sure that these thin paths are perfectly aligned to the pixel grid. Select the group made in this step and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag both Move sliders at -0.5px and click OK

Enable the Pixel Preview (View > Pixel Preview) then have a look at your path with and without the Transform affect to understand exactly how things change. Don't forget to disable the Pixel Preview (View > Pixel Preview) once you're done.

Line Graph

Step 6

Reselect your group of white paths, focus on the Appearance panel and simply click on that "Opacity" piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel. Lower the Opacity to 25% and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Make sure that your group is still selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Line Graph

4. Create the First Line Guide

Step 1

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and create a somewhat simple path as shown in the following image. Select it and focus on the Appearance panel. Make sure that there is no color set for the fill, select the stroke, set the color at R=255 G=25 B=100 then open the Stroke fly-out panel. Set the Weight at 4px then simply check the Round Cap and the Round Join buttons (pointed by the blue circles in the following image).

Line Graph

Step 2

Make sure that your yellow path stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the existing stroke and simply duplicate it using the Duplicate Selected Item button (pointed by the blue circle in the following image). Select this new stroke, set the Weight at 3px and the color at R=255 G=222 B=23 then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Line Graph

Step 3

Make sure that your yellow path stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the top stroke and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button. Select this new stroke, set the Weight at 1px and the color at R=247 G=148 B=30 then open the existing Transform effect. Replace the existing properties with the ones shown in the following image and click OK.

Line Graph

Step 4

Make sure that your yellow path stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the bottom stroke and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button. Select this new stroke, drag it in the bottom of the Appearance panel, set the Weight at 6px and the color at black (R=0 G=0 B=0) then lower its Opacity to 15%.

Line Graph

Step 5

Make sure that your yellow path stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the 4px stroke and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the left window (in the following image), click OK then hit Shift-Control-E twice to add the same effect two more times. Make sure that your 4px is still selected and go one more time to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the right window and click OK.

Line Graph

Step 6

Reselect your yellow path, focus on the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected (simply click on the "Path" piece of text from the top of the Appearance panel) and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 5px Radius and click OK. Make sure that your yellow path is still selected, open the Graphic Styles panel (Window > Graphic Styles) and simply click on the New Graphic Style button to save a new graphic style.

Line Graph

5. Create the Other Two Line Guides

Step 1

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and create a new path as shown in the following image. Select it and simply add your saved graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel. Make sure that this fresh path stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the top stroke and replace the existing color with R=239 G=65 B=54. Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, move down to the next stroke, select it and replace the existing color with R=247 G=148 B=30. Finally, select the 4px stroke and replace the existing color with R=255 G=205 B=109.

Line Graph

Step 2

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and create a new path as shown in the following image. Select it and simply add your saved graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel. Make sure that this fresh path stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and simply replace the existing stroke colors with the ones shown below.

Line Graph

6. Create

Step 1

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 20px circle and place it as shown in the first image. Select this new shape and focus on the Appearance panel. Make sure that you have no color set for the fill, select the stroke, set its color at R=39 G=170 B=225 then open the Stroke fly-out panel. Set the Weight at 4px, check the Align Stroke to Outside button (highlighted by the blue circle in the following image) then go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

Line Graph

Step 2

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down using the down arrow button from your keyboard. 

Reselect both copies made in this step, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click the Minus Front button. Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected and simply hit Control-8 to turn it into a simple compound path. Select it, set the color at white and change its Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Line Graph

Step 3

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make another two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a new compound path (Control-8), set its fill color at black and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Line Graph

Step 4

Reselect your blue shape and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill, lower its Opacity to 10% and replace the existing color with white.

Line Graph

Step 5

Make sure that your white circle stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and select the stroke. Set the color at black and the Weight at 1px, lower its Opacity to 20% and check the Align Stroke to Outside button from the Stroke fly-out panel. 

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a second stroke for your shape using the Add New Stroke button (pointed by the blue circle in the following image). Select this new stroke, set the color at white and the Weight at 1px, lower its Opacity to 10% and check the Align Stroke to Inside button from the Stroke fly-out panel.

Line Graph

Step 6

Reselect your white circle, focus on the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected and add the three Drop Shadow effects (Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow) shown in the following image.

Line Graph

Step 7

Enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Reselect your white circle along with the two, thin compound paths and Group them (Control-G). Multiply this new group (Control-C > Control-F) and spread the copies roughly as shown in the second image.

Line Graph

7. Add the Text

Step 1

For this step you will need a grid every 1px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box. Grab the Type Tool (T), simply click on your artboard and add the piece of text shown in the following image. Make sure that all this text stays selected, set its color at R=187 G=183 B=200 and open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character). Select the Calibri font, make it Bold and set the size at 12px.

Line Graph

Step 2

Reselect all your text and add the five Drop Shadow effects shown in the following image. Make sure that one of these piece of text is still selected and save a new graphic style using that same New Graphic Style button from the Graphic Styles panel.

Line Graph

Step 3

Grab the Type Tool (T) and add a longer piece of text as shown in the following image. Use the same color, font and style, but increase the font size to 15px. Make sure that this new piece of text is selected and simply add the graphic style saved in the previous step.

Line Graph

8. Add Color, Shading and Highlights for Your Main Shape

Step 1

Select your "main" shape, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button (pointed by the blue circle in the following image). Select this new fill, lower its Opacity to 50%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay and open the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient). Simply click on the gradient thumbnail to add the default black to white linear gradient. Keep focusing on your Gradient panel, select the left slider and make sure that the color is set at white then select the right slider, set the color at R=30 G=61 B=81 and lower its Opacity to 0%. Make sure that the fill added in this step stays selected, grab the Gradient Tool (G), focus on the artboard and stretch your linear gradient roughly as shown in the following image.

Line Graph

Step 2

Reselect your "main" shape, focus on the Appearance panel and add a third fill using that same Add New Fill button. Select this new fill, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 7%, change the Blending Mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Line Graph

Step 3

Make sure that your "main" shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and select the stroke. Set the color at white, lower its Opacity to 50%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay then set the Weight at 2px and check the Align Stroke to Inside button from the Stroke fly-out panel.

Line Graph

Step 4

Make sure that your "main" shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using that same Add New Stroke button. Select this new stroke, set the color at R=55 G=32 B=35 and the Weight at 1px then check the Align Stroke to Inside button from the Stroke fly-out panel. Return to the Appearance panel and add a third stroke for your shape. Set the color at R=35 G=31 B=32, lower its Opacity to 10%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light then set the Weight at 1px and check the Align Stroke to Outside button from the Stroke fly-out panel.

Line Graph

Step 5

Make sure that your "main" shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the bottom fill and add the four Drop Shadow effects shown in the following image.

Line Graph

Step 6

Reselect your "main" shape, focus on the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 5px Radius, click OK and you're done.

Line Graph

Congratulations! You're Done!

Here is how it should look. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

Line Graph
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