Using the Graph Design function in Adobe Illustrator, you can add illustrations or any shape you want to spice up any column or bar graph. Any drawing you create in Illustrator can be converted into a graph design, allowing for endless possibilities in terms of what objects you can display as the bars on bar graphs. In this tutorial, I will show you the three ways designs can be applied to the bars:
Vertically scaled: Graph Designs are stretched or compressed vertically – the width doesn’t change.
Uniformly scaled: Graph Designs are scaled both vertically and horizontally. The horizontal spacing of the designs is not adjusted for the different widths.
Sliding: Similar to a vertically scaled design, except that you can specify where in the design to stretch or compress it.
Applying graph designs to a bar/column graph
In this example, I will be using an illustration of a cactus I created:
The first thing will need to do is draw a rectangle around the image using the Rectangle Tool. Make sure there is no stroke and fill color. The rectangle will represent the boundary of the graph design.
While the rectangle is still selected, go Object > Arrange > Send to Back
With the Selection Tool, select both the image and the rectangle frame. Next, go Object > Group
Time to convert the image to a Graph Design. Go Object > Graph > Design…
On the Graph Design pop-up window, press the New Design button to add the image. Press Rename if you want to give it a name and then hit OK.
Using either the Bar Graph Tool or the Column Graph Tool draw out a graph and give it some dummy data.
Right-click the graph and select Column… from the menu.
In the Graph Column pop-up window select the Graph Design and make sure the Column Type is set to Vertically Scaled. Finally hit OK.
The bars in the graph will transform into your Graph Design image:
As you can see, the cactus images are a little stretched. This is the major side-effect of setting the Column Type to Vertically Scaled. If you right-click back onto the graph again to select the Column… option and instead select Uniformly Scaled in the Column Type option. This will make the Graph Design both vertically and horizontally scaled:
Creating a sliding column graph designs
Here we’ll look at creating another type of column design called “sliding”. This column type setting is special because unlike the vertically or uniformly scaled column types, “sliding” allows you to specify where in the design you want to stretch or compress it.
In this example, I will be using a “mushroom platform” image, where we’ll be scaling/extending the stem of the mushroom:
Like with the cactus in the previous half of this tutorial (steps 1-2), you will need to draw a rectangle frame around the image with the Rectangle Tool and have the stroke and fill color set to none. The frame needs to be sent to behind the image (Object > Arrange > Send to back). However, do not group it all yet.
In the toolbar, select the Line Segment Tool and draw a straight, horizontal line across the part of the image you want it to be stretched from. Make sure the fill and stroke color are set to none for this line.
Select all the elements (the image, rectangle frame and the line) with the Selection Tool and then go Object > Group to combine them all together.
Using either the Direct Selection Tool or the Group Selection Tool, select only the horizontal line and go View > Guides > Make Guides.
TIP: Make sure in View > Guides that Hide Guides and Lock Guides are NOT ticked. If there are then just click on them to un-tick them.
With the Direct Selection Tool select the group (image, line & frame) and go Object > Graph > Design. Like previously with the cactus, go New Design in the Graph Design option window. Rename if you want to and hit OK.
To apply the new graph design to your graph, right-click onto it and select Column… from the menu. In the Graph Column window set the Column Type to Sliding and hit OK.
After applying my mushroom graph design to the graph, it now looks like this:
As you can see, the top part of the image stays consistent on each bar on the graph. The guide lines still remain, but these can be hidden by going View > Guides > Hide Guides.
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