You'll have to bear with me, I'm going to struggle describing what I mean.

I'm creating a chart that looks something like this: enter image description here

Except that my numbers aren't integers. So, in that first line for instance, I'd have a number like 2.4 and I would want that person in the image to be 40% one color and 60% the other color and have a space between the people. I'm not sure how to accomplish this using the repeating/cutoff settings in Illustrator's stacked bar charts.

Feel free to help me reformulate this query so that others can better understand it.

  • And if I'm using the wrong tool for the job, tell me that.
    – Zelbinian
    Apr 25, 2014 at 22:29
  • I imagine you may just have to tweak it manually to fit your particular need.
    – DA01
    Apr 25, 2014 at 22:35
  • I did this once, don't remember if it was on here or another site (I think it was another site) and it explained to select the object and how to calculate the area using the Histogram. It was pretty complicated. Try looking on Google for something about area of shape in Photoshop. If I have time I'll try to remember and post a solution over the weekend.
    – Ryan
    Apr 25, 2014 at 23:09
  • Interesting. Pretty simple to do manually, but you want to use the chart function of Illustrator?
    – benteh
    May 22, 2014 at 12:25
  • 1
    So, pictogram charts like these tend to be best for cases where your audience want a general idea more than precision (and so the numbers shown tend to be rounded, avoiding the problem, like in your example). If your audience are more interested in the exact numbers, a regular bar chart is probably more suitable. May 22, 2014 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


This might not be anything of what you want, but i simply turned the graph-part (data points) horisontal instead, and put a box with human-shaped "holes" on top. (I somehow got the idea that you imagined the human "bars" vertical?) You could add some kind of numeric scale - or not.

enter image description here

  • Clever solution.
    – Jon
    May 22, 2014 at 16:46
  • Clever, but to be technically precise, you'd need Illustrator to be aware of the gaps so that, say, 19.9 and 20.1 don't both look like 20. I suppose you could fudge the numbers in the table?
    – Zelbinian
    Jun 3, 2014 at 19:13
  • 1
    Yes, I thought about that: you could allow for the gaps between the figures, and calculate them "out" so to speak. Or, simpler, make the gap smaller: In those cases the division between orange and brown falls between the figures; well, that kind of describes the data anyway. This sort of visualisation is not really about being correct to the nano-level. My sketch was a bit of a quick and dirty job; with refinement it could work well.
    – benteh
    Jun 3, 2014 at 23:18
  • Right. I ended up just rounding to whole numbers for the project but (iconography/subject matter depending) I can see getting as meticulous as rounding to the nearest quarter or even the nearest eighth. Anyway, thanks for the neat idea!
    – Zelbinian
    Jun 4, 2014 at 20:41

1- Make your row of people a compound path. Make sure they are not grouped first, ungroup if necessary then select them all, right click and select "Make Compound Path".

2- Apply a gradient to the fill of the row of people. Using the Gradient window assign any gradient to it. Since the whole row is a compound path, handled as a single shape, the gradient will run across the whole row.

enter image description here

3- With the row still selected change the left colour of the gradient to black if it is not. Double-click on the handle for the left side of the gradient. Change the colour to black if it is not. Click anywhere to accept the change.

4- Now, suppose the percentages for that row are 40% black and 60% yellow. At the bottom of the window (show the options if they are hidden by clicking on the right top corner) change the location value to the percentage of black (40). Make sure the opacity is 100%.

enter image description here

5- With the row still selected change the right colour to yellow. Change the location value to the percentage of black (the same number again, 40, not 60 which would be the percentage of yellow).

enter image description here

6- Since both locations are the same, the gradient does not render a smooth transition, but a drastic one from black to yellow.

  • This is a cool idea too.
    – Jon
    May 22, 2014 at 16:43
  • Heh, I love how the two best solutions here involve not touching Illustrator's chart feature at all. Time for them to upgrade that, me thinks.
    – Zelbinian
    Jun 3, 2014 at 19:15
  • @Zelbinian: True! Charts and info-graphics are a big part of illustration.
    – cockypup
    Jun 4, 2014 at 17:13

@Zelbinian it seems to me that you are conflating two types of representation in your question.

If you are making an Isotype chart, then each pictogram represents a certain number of things. In order to create a higher value, you simply add more pictograms. There are no scaled x or y axes. Because the pictograms are typically arranged in rows, the the width of an icon is the measure you need to be concerned about. If you need to represent a fractional measure, you can simply divide the width of the pictogram. A starting point for Isotype: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotype_(picture_language)

If you are making a bar graph, or a stacked bar graph, then the length of the bar (or height of the column) when compared to a scale on an axis indicates the specific value. The overall extent of a bar when compared to others gives the reader a quick but rough indication of relative measure.

You can declare a pictogram to be of a certain value. Say you were representing how many thousands of tonnes of goods are shipped by truck in a year. You could make a truck icon make a legend: 1 truck pictogram = 1000 tonnes. If you had 12,000 tonnes you'd show 12 trucks. 12,250 tonnes would be 12 and quarter trucks.

You can divide your pictogram into fractional units by: drawing a rectangle over the pictogram matching its width. In Illustrator set the reference point to middle left. With the rectangle selected, use the width value box and input math such as 1*0.4 for 40% and hit Return (Enter). Select both your pictogram and rectangle and then go Object > Clipping Mask > Make (⌘7 on a Mac). If you want a Pictogram to represent 40% of one thing and 60% of another then make another the same way but from the opposite side and then align their edges.

It may be that you don't want to do an Isotype chart or it's not suited to the information you need to express. In that case it's far better to make a simple and clear bar graph. I strongly recommend not trying to map pictograms onto the bar (or columns) because Isotype just isn't for that. Instead go for accuracy and clarity in the information. Locate extra labels atop the columns or at the end of the bars to indicate precise measures, especially if the scales are far away and make it hard to compare. If you want visual interest rely on colour, contrast and size rather than decorations that don't add meaning.

I would illustrate all this but I really need to sleep. I will check back in tomorrow sometime or on Friday.

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