I have never made graphs before in Illustrator, but I have an incoming project where I will have to make a variety of different graphs based on large quantities of numerical data that I will be given. I want to be able to set up the style of the graphs in Illustrator, and then use the data to fill in the specific values.

A few weeks back I stumbled upon this thread regarding making a circular graph by coding it in an EPS file. This seems really intriguing to me, but I'm not familiar with EPS nor how to set up shapes/graphs in an EPS. Additionally, I'm not sure if learning to make graphs in EPS is worth my time, or if I should try to set up my graphs in some other way.

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    Adobe Illustrator has chart/graph tools built in. – Billy Kerr Jul 3 '18 at 19:46
  • I am seeing now that there are lots of tools for graphing with Illustrator, but I am still interested in learning how to use EPS or become more familiar with modifying EPS files. Are there good resources for understanding how I would do this? – jclarke Jul 4 '18 at 14:21
  • You can export EPS files directly from Illustrator. – Billy Kerr Jul 4 '18 at 14:24
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    The eps you linked is hand crafted in a text editor (not to be confused with a word processor or page layout) Scite to be exact but even notepad or ed would work. – joojaa Jul 4 '18 at 14:30
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    The text in an EPS file is in PostScript, which is a complete programming language. Conceptually, it derives from Forth (which was one of the main languages taught at the time of creation) and so it is stack based – quite unlike the languages you are (hopefully) familiar with: Java, JavaScript, VBA, possibly Python. It takes a fair amount of practice to get used to its programming model and how this produces graphical data, and even more to so produce actually useful graphs. – Jongware Jul 4 '18 at 14:45

I dont think you have a choice in the matter. See Illustator is a direct modeler, with a few indirect modeling features. This means that illustrator is built on the assumption that you the human are around to redraw things. The more ambitious the styling the more likely you are going to have to build the stuff yourself.

Now this is obviously not what you want. Lots of tools exist that can do what you want. Unfortunately, most of the tools out there assume you are a scientist. Or then you can opt for a spreadsheet.

I would really recommend Mathematica but i have no idea what your background is (if you can afford it). Drawing a graph is hardly rocket science even withoit a graphing platform. Many artists use processing since well thats what their peers use.

  • My biggest hangup with using a different software to make the graphs is that I need to be able to easily edit the data in Illustrator. I will be making lots of graphs as new data comes in for me, and so this is why I was thinking that using EPS might be an easy way to edit the data. Is there third party software that would allow me to edit the data within Illustrator? – jclarke Jul 4 '18 at 14:45
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    Its a bit problematic, since to be editable the source must be somehow indirect. If it is indirect then you cant edit in illustrator. EPS does not really change this. @jclarke realistically you need to learn to think slightly differently no matter what you choose. Its no harder to update in mathematica than in eps. – joojaa Jul 4 '18 at 15:42

One relatively practical (but paid) option is to use the FF Chartwell typeface family (not affiliated), which uses OpenType features to transform simple strings of numbers into charts. The data remains editable as text, allowing for easy updating and formatting.

enter image description here

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    but not freedom of design. – joojaa Jul 3 '18 at 21:40
  • Its great and fast to work with if you can accept its limitations and the styles it offers. I do admit I've only used this occasionally, since many times I would just contruct the charts manually. – Lucian Jul 4 '18 at 6:52
  • Maybe, but i cant still shake the feeling that one is trying to circumvent not being able to do a for loop. – joojaa Jul 4 '18 at 14:26
  • FF Chartwell seems like a really good option to maintain editability and to make a lot of graphs quickly, but I am uncertain about the pricing. I will look into my organisation getting a license but for the time being, I will not be able to use this option. – jclarke Jul 4 '18 at 15:10

My approach would be to import a basic shape of the graph from Excel and add some effects to Illustrator. You can easily export graphs to PDF directly from MS Office and then you simply edit the PDF.

This will be the inverted process to what you anticipated.

You could probably prepare some macros to automate the stylizing of the images.

enter image description here

But there are some types of graphs that can easily be done in illustrator, like bars. Simply make your graph at a specific scale, where you can simply assign a dimension according to the value. This totally depends on the type of graphs and the amount of data.

  • The project I am working on will have new statistics posted every 3 months, so I require the data in the graphs to be editable so I can easily update the graphs. If I imported a PDF then styled it, I am assuming that I would need to repeat all the styling when the data changes? Would there be a way of modifying the data in Illustrator? – jclarke Jul 4 '18 at 14:39

You might look at Astute Graphics (a UK company which makes a bunch of Illustrator plugins) and their plugin called Vector Scribe which has (amongst other things) some specific graphing tools.

As for myself I've used the basic Illustrator charts & graphs tool combined with graphic styles to manage significant graphing in repeating publications many times.

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    How much is significant amount. I regularly do 500 graph updates a day when i make publications. So even if it takes you a minute to do that's still 500 minutes of work or about 8,3 hours. I would't get anything done in those circumstances for me updateing those form the database takes about 25 seconds. – joojaa Jul 5 '18 at 19:49
  • @joojaa - a very fair point - my iterations were less and my total count far less than your stalwart total! – GerardFalla Jul 5 '18 at 21:11

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