I used to be able to cut and paste Excel line charts into Illustrator and to apply stroke formatting to the lines there. These days – online charts with lots of data points this results in an outlined stroke (i.e. a fill with no stroke). This also appears when exporting as a PDF and opening in illustrator. This applies to charts with no effects applied.

Sometimes I can get around this by opening in open office and exporting as a PDF, or saving as an .xls file and opening on an older version of Excel – but this regularly fails (either it won't open or won't draw the chart).

Does anyone have a clue how to get back to single lines rather than outlines?

  • There is no good way to solve this. You can draw your own graphs. Incredibly simple stuff.
    – joojaa
    May 13, 2021 at 14:36
  • In paid print works it must be simple, Typically the author has inserted all possible clutter what Excel offers and cleaning it needs some work.
    – user82991
    May 13, 2021 at 17:35
  • @user287001 sometimes doing the legwork is less work than fixing others mistakes. But i mean there are other graphing apps that probably work as much easier basis. Atleast they arent owned by companies that do actively benefit from stopping you doing this.
    – joojaa
    May 13, 2021 at 18:55
  • I have ZERO trust in Microsoft construction of anything. I copy a graph from Excel, paste it into Illustrator, lock the layer, create a new layer and then reconstruct the graph entirely using the locked layer as merely a guide. I realize this is often more work than many want to do.
    – Scott
    Jun 7, 2022 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


I worked around this problem by keeping alive a museum version of Excel. (=a part of Office 2003). If you are lucky someone you know can have one. Version 2003 and older ones can be installed by knowing the right key. Newer ones have online anti-piracy control.

The chart is drawn from numbers and maybe from text strings. You can paste the calculated numbers and strings as values to an empty zone and from there you can save as CSV or other legacy format which can be used in older Excel, even pasted to it.

  • I wonder though if you could circumvent this by copying the graph into powerpoint then expand it to native powerpoint objects. Anyway you can acess the lines with excels api so it would be possible to mine them from excel.
    – joojaa
    May 13, 2021 at 17:20

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