I've created some charts in Excel and would like to touch them up in Illustrator as vector files. But whenever I copy/paste, or export/import as PDF, or export as PDF then convert to SVG then import, the chart is a raster file. I see people saying that this process just involves a simple copy + paste. Am I missing something?

UPDATE: I've realized that this is not the case with line charts, which I can successfully copy/paste into AI. But it does hold true for box-and-whisker charts, which I cannot copy/paste. Why?

  • There is no guarantee that they were vectors to vegin with? Try printing to a postsrcript file or to pdf with adobe distiller. This would retain most of the nature of things.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 18:32
  • 1
    The things have got gradually worse. Good looking layout needs simplicity, not kitch. Especially bad are all 3D like charts. Excel lets one copy and paste out of Excel only a bitmap image version. They cannot be vectorized with any easy method. In addition there's styles which do not have lines, all line or curve looking elements are filled areas. You cannot change their widths. I have kept alive Excel 2003 and Excel 2007 which make simple charts -their harms in Illustrator are multiple clipping masks & groups and line groups which are formed as compound paths. One must disassemble them all.
    – user82991
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 11:28
  • (continued) Those chart styles which become bitmaps when copied and pasted to Illustrator are bitmaps also in exported files and prints.
    – user82991
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 11:35

3 Answers 3


Note: The "live", dynamic, nature of Excel charts can not be maintained in Illustrator. What pastes is non-dynamic - meaning you can't easily alter the data in any chart pasted into Illustrator from Excel. Charts paste as artwork not as live charts in Illustrator.

The charts don't always paste wonderfully "as is". You need to some minor clean up at times.

Using an Excel Chart:

enter image description here

Simply copy, switch to Illustrator, and Paste:

enter image description here

You'll notice the chart pastes with a rectangle around it to indicate the "chart area" in Excel. These are clipping masks in Illustrator. So you need to remove them.

(The type reformatting is due to Excel formulas and is another matter. I'm merely using a downloadable template from the web here and generally I replace any text, so I, personally, never concern myself with the type issue.)

So, switch to Outline Mode (View > Outline).

enter image description here

Then select and delete the rectangles:

enter image description here

Switch back to Preview Mode (View > Preview) and you'll find vector paths and elements you can easily alter:

enter image description here

It's the same for Box and Whisker charts... they paste with clipping masks (rectangles).

enter image description here

Just remove the clipping masks to easily access the actual artwork:

enter image description here

(Note: Using Excel 14.7.2 and Illustrator CS6 here - it can only be better in more recent versions.)

  • I don't seem to be given that option. Bar charts function as you've described above, but when I paste a box and whisker chart, AI only gives me a box around the whole chart, as if I was pasting a JPEG into the artboard. Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 17:11
  • Sorry, did you read this answer? The "box around the chart" is most likely a clipping mask.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 17:54
  • Yes Scott, I read your answer. Box and whisker plots don't paste with clipping masks for me, only a path surrounding the image. Removing the path just leaves me with an image and not artwork. If you're going to respond, please do so without assuming I'm stupid. Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 2:26
  • @HarrisonCarto Apologies. I never for a moment assumed you were "stupid", but I did lean towards thinking the answer may have been skimmed, as they often are. I can't replicate what you are detailing here. Whenever I paste from Excel directly into AI, I get clipping masks around actual vector paths.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 4:06
  • People do tend to skim, it is true. I'll keep trying to solve this– thanks for your help. Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 15:06

I do that all the time. Follow the steps and you can export a PDF you can open in Illustrator as a editable vectorized objects and real text.

1. click on the graph in Excel so that the data in the table is automaticly selected (colors)

click on graph

2. Go to File->export-> Export as PDF/XPS-document (Or what ever is written in your language. See the screenshot)

enter image description here

Now you have a PDF-File you can open with Illustrator and edit. Of course, you can't edit these with the graph function in Illustrator, so if the numbers change, you have to do the changes in Excel and do the steps again but I am content enough for now with this solution.

PDF-opened in illstrator

Works every time.

  • This doesn't work for me, unfortunately. When the PDF is opened in AI and the clipping masks are removed, I'm left with a raster image of the graph. Now, this doesn't seem to apply to bar charts, like in your screenshots, but it does apply to box and whisker charts. Commented Jan 28, 2022 at 15:12

Usually, when I see rasters copied into Illustrator from Excel, it is because effects have been applied to the markers or line. In Excel, right click on each data series, select Format Data Series, and ensure that lines are simple solid lines and that markers do not have shadows/bevels/glows etc.

It is also better if Excel markers have either a fill or a border, otherwise the pasted chart will have stacked markers, one with the fill and one with the border.

In Mac OS, it is also easy to ensure the text comes across correctly. Change the chart font in Excel to Helvetica or Helvetica Neue before copying and pasting into Illustrator. You can change the font for the whole chart by clicking on the background of the chart and going to Excel's home tab.

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