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Quick Tip: Spice Up Your Graphs With Column Designs

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Read Time: 2 min
This post is part of a series called Infographic Design.
How to Create an Informative Map In Perspective with Illustrator
Turn a Boring Bar Graph into a 3D Masterpiece

Illustrator includes a powerful graph tool that allows you to present numerical data in a visual manner. In this Quick Tip, you'll learn how to augment a column graph with Illustrator artwork for a more interesting and informative look.

Step 1

Select the Column Graph tool (J) and click once on the artboard. Enter a size for the graph. Alternately, click and drag with the tool to set the size.

Step 2

In the tiny spread sheet that appears (known as the Graph Data window), enter some numbers, as in the image below. In this example, the labels on the bottom are years. Enclose these in straight quote marks so that they read as labels rather than values. Use the arrow keys to move from cell to cell. The Graph Data window appears automatically when you use a graph tool and stays open until you close it.

Step 3

The graph is done, and it's pretty boring. We'll use an existing piece of artwork to create a column design. First, draw a rectangle around the artwork. It should have a fill and stroke of None. Use Smart Guides to help position the rectangle. Send the rectangle to the back, then select it and the artwork and group.

Step 4

Go to Object > Graph > Design. In the dialog box that appears, click New Design, then rename it...

Step 5

Now select the graph, go back to the Object menu, to Graph > Column. Choose the design you just created. Now the column design replaces the standard bars in the graph.

Step 6

You'll notice that the pencils have been scaled to match the values, resulting in an unevenness of the pencils' erasers. There's nothing wrong with this, but if you prefer a more uniform look, you can create a sliding column design.

Use the existing pencil design with the rectangle behind it. With the Pen tool, draw a horizontal line at the point where you want the column to begin stretching.

Select all parts of the design, including the horizontal line, and group.

Step 7

Use the Direct Selection tool (A) to select the horizontal line. Be sure to select only the horizontal line. Go to View > Guides > Make Guides.

Make sure the guides are unlocked by going to View > Guides > Lock Guides to remove the check mark next to the word "Lock". Move the design around to make sure that the guide moves with the design.

Step 8

As before, select the pencil design and go to Object > Graph > Design to create and name the design.

Step 9

Repeat the procedure in Step 5 to use the new sliding pencil column design. In the Column Type drop-down menu, choose Sliding.


There are tons of things you can do with graphs, all while keeping the data editable. Experiment and have fun!

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