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Creating a Graph

Though you wouldn't know it to look at it, Illustrator offers a lot of graphing options. In fact, you can easily get mired down by these options—with so many options, each making such a tiny difference in the outcome of your graph, and each just plain hard to use. To help you out, I've provided the following handy-dandy chart-making steps. Illustrator's many minute graphing variations are likely to make more sense after you've had a chance to create a few graphs of your own.

Decide what kind of graph you want to create.

Illustrator provides nine graph tools that correspond to its nine kinds of graphs—four kinds of bar graphs (of both the horizontal and vertical flavors), as well as a line graph, an area graph (filled lines), a scatter graph (a line graph variation), a pie graph (usually called a pie chart), and a radar graph (a circular style popular in Japan). Never fear, I'll explore each of these graphs in excruciating detail later in this chapter.

To specify the kind of graph you want to create, drag your cursor to the right from the graph tool slot on the toolbox, as shown in Figure 13.1, and choose your tool.

Figure 13.1. Choose one of the nine graph tools offered by Illustrator.

Drag with the graph tool.

The dimensions of your drag determine the size of the graph. After you release the mouse button, Illustrator displays the Graph Data window, where you enter the numbers you want to graph.

Enter or import your data.

You can either enter numbers directly into the Graph Data window or import them from a spreadsheet program. If you hate math, make a coworker give you the numbers. You're an artist, darn it, not an accountant!

Press the keypad Enter key.

Illustrator generates a chart from your numbers. You can just sit there and admire the wonderful world of automation. (If you're using a laptop or a keyboard that doesn't have a keypad, you might find the Enter key on the main keyboard, often near the spacebar. The regular Enter (Return on the Mac) key just moves you down one cell.)

Change the Graph Type attributes.

With the graph selected, double-click the graph tool icon in the toolbox, or choose Object » Graph » Type. This opens the Graph Type dialog box. You can monkey around with a bunch of weird options until Illustrator creates a graph more or less to your liking. You can even change the kind of graph if you want.

This is one place in which right-clicking in Windows or Ctrl-clicking on the Mac comes in handy. With a graph selected, right-click (Control-click on the Mac) to display a context-sensitive pop-up menu that contains all the commands in the Object » Graph submenu. This is probably the fastest way to access any of these commands. If the only command you see on the context-sensitive menu is Data, you'll need to close the Graph Data window; then you'll see all of the graph commands.

If necessary, edit the graph manually with the direct selection tool.

Ultimately, a graph is just a collection of paths and point text. This means you can move graph elements and text with the direct selection tool, edit the text with the type tool, and fill and stroke the paths with different colors.



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