How to Make Charts and Graphs for Your Infographics

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

Adobe Illustrator has a very flexible Graph tool to help you design your infographics. You can make charts and graphs styled any way you want, while still keeping them “live.” This means that you can change the look of the chart to fit your publication’s style without changing your ability to add new numbers later.

Creating a chart on your infographic

Activate the Graph tool on the tool bar. If you click and hold it, a menu appears of the various graphing options. Just for fun, choose the Line Graph tool. This format is useful for showing data over time, or for showing values that create a trend of some kind.

In the workspace, click and drag to define the size of the chart. (Don’t worry, you can always adjust the size later.) When you release the mouse, a dialog box opens where you can save your data.

Populating your chart

You can start entering your data directly into it — or, even better, cut and paste already formatted data from a program like Excel. Comma-separated values (CVS) data flows neatly into a variety of programs without losing the essential column and row organization.

So you can edit data in a powerful program like Excel (sorting, for example, so that the numbers go from biggest to smallest) and then just copy and paste your clean data into the Illustrator data field.

If your chart doesn’t turn out the way you expected, or you see an error message, the problem is likely the data format. Illustrator reads numbers with commas in them as text. Likewise, if you have a column of dates that are just numbers, you need to add quotes for Illustrator to understand that those numbers are categories.

The second button from the left — Transpose Data — allows you to flip how your data is organized. Click it to see what happens; then click it again to toggle to the original orientation. When you close the data dialog box, it will query whether you want to save your chart.

Assuming that you select Yes, you can get to the data again by choosing Object→Graph→Data or by right-clicking the chart and choosing Data from the context menu.

Here’s how to modify the look of your chart:

  1. Click and hold the Selection tool at the top of the Tools palette.

  2. Choose the Direct Selection tool from the options that appear and then click the fever line (chart line) within your chart.

    The Direct Selection Tool allows you to select only the fever line in your chart. Although it will only select a portion of the line, you can select the entire line by holding down Option/Alt while clicking the line.

  3. With the entire line selected, change the color of the line by choosing Window→Color and then selecting the color you want.

    You can choose any color you like for the line color. You can also choose a different line width for the fever line by using the Window→Stroke menu.

    If you’re working with a client, make sure your choices work with any required brand guidelines.