Office applications are getting very advanced these days offering all sorts of fancy features for data visualization. Graph generation is a standard feature in desktop applications like Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice.org Calc, but it can also be achieved in non-spreadsheet applications like Adobe Illustrator.
If you’re unfamiliar with the process of creating graphs in Adobe Illustrator, this article will help in giving you some insight into the work-flow. It might also help you decide whether Illustrator is the right tool for this kind of assignment.
What Type of Graphs Can You Create in Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator offers 9 graph types to visualize data. You can choose from the following:
- Column Graph
- Stacked Column Graph
- Bar Graph
- Stacked Bar Graph
- Line Graph
- Area Graph
- Scatter Graph
- Pie Graph
- Radar Graph
There is also the possibility for making combinations from the existing graph types to achieve greater diversity. The only graph type that can’t be combined is the scatter graph.
Creating graphs in Illustrator is as simple as selecting the Graph Tool (from the Tools panel), clicking on your Artboard and dragging and thus forming the area size of the graph. It is also possible to type in the width and height of the graph, which is useful if you want to create graphs with specific dimensions. If you decide to type in the dimensions of the graph, you should bear in mind that those dimensions are applied to the whole graph object (including labels, legend and x, y values), not just the graph chart.
Once you create this graph size and shape you will see that it’s available as a single element (layer) in the Layers panel, usually with the name <Graph>. This might seem confusing at first but you’ll get used to it very quickly.
The Two Faces of Illustrator Graph Functionality
Creating graphs in Adobe Illustrator is generally a straightforward task but once you get into advanced techniques of graph design, functionality can get quite annoying. You’ll be surprised to discover that basic tasks like scaling and aligning are not instantly applicable on graphs.
Face 1 (Graphs as Objects)
The reason for the initial exceptional lack of functionality of the graph objects in Illustrator is that they are quite simply, ‘objects’. That is to say, they are special groups of sub-elements that have a limited number of attributes the user can control. Graph objects are less flexible than usual Illustrator layers, layer elements and groups of layer elements.
Here are most of the limitations of Adobe Illustrator’s graph creation functionality that are instantly noticeable:
- Transform panel is not available for graph objects.
- No transform controls are available for selected graph objects, thus no instant scaling or rotation is possible.
- Graph objects cannot be aligned to other objects nor can other objects be aligned to them.
- Two or more graph objects cannot be grouped.
- It’s not possible to create a clipping mask from a graph object.
- A graph object cannot be transformed into a symbol.
Maybe it’s not really wise to initially dig for limitations, as you may get the impression that you’re left with very few things that you can actually do to graphs in Illustrator. Of course, that’s the wrong impression. As noted, creating graphs in Adobe Illustrator is generally a straightforward task.
But through knowing the limitations of your tool can actually help you plan early and work smarter.
Face 2 (working with sub-elements of the Graph Object)… Sigue leyendo