Adobe Illustrator is a great program for creating figures which are professional, customizable, and scalable. You have control over the look of your figures, and since Illustrator draws with mathematical vectors, you can easily scale the same figure for publication in any sized media, from journals to posters.
This guide has resources in three main groups:
You can use Illustrator to combine multiple graphs into a composite as well. Note figures like a, c, and e would be created from drawing tools, while figures like b, c, and f would be made using the graph tool and then further manipulated.
We're Here to Help
No matter which type of figure you are creating, know that if there's anything you would like to learn to do with your figure, or if it seems like there should be a better way to make the figure you want than what you know, you can reach out to our peer tutors in Burke Library and the KTSA, as well as our Educational Technology staff. Fill out the appointment form, or drop-in! [include links]
Illustrator Document Creation
Create a new document from File-->New. Make any changes you want to, such as changing the units to inches or centimeters—but you can change all these settings later as well.
Grids & Guides
Please see the Adobe Help page on Rulers, Grids, and Guides for more in-depth information.
Guides can help you make figures by giving you lines at precise locations to which you can snap objects.
To place guides, first you have to enable Rulers from View-->Rulers-->Show Rulers. Then simply click on the ruler and drag outward to create a guide.
You can also turn any object (line or shape) into a guide by selecting it and going to View-->Guides-->Make Guides
You can delete guides like any object, by selecting it and pressing the delete button. You can lock guides in place by right clicking on the artboard and selecting Lock Guides; unlock guides by right clicking the artboard and selecting Release Guides.
A grid can similarly help you lay out figures by displaying lines at set intervals.
To turn on the grid, go to View-->Show Grid. To change the size of the grid interval, go to Illustrator-->Preferences-->Guides & Grid and enter an amount in the Gridline Every field. You can enter amounts in inches (in), mm, or cm, even if Illustrator is displaying values in some other measurement, such as points (pt)—Illustrator will automatically convert the values appropriately.
The alignment options allow you to quickly line up elements of your figure precisely.
You can access the align panel from Window-->Align.
You can specify to align objects to your selection, a specific key object, or to the dimensions of the artboard. To indicate a "key object" to align to, click that object again after selecting Align to Key Object.
To access the Align To controls, you may need to click the flyout menu and Show Options.
Text and Images
Area Type and Point Type
Area Type is made by dragging out a text box with the type tool, and it behaves like type in text boxes in most other programs: the text is constrained within the box; you can move the box around, resize it (changing the area the text is within), and thread the text to other text boxes.
Point Type is unique to Illustrator and can be created by simply clicking with the type tool and then typing. The text is only constrained to the initial point you clicked: if you center or right-align the text, it will do so with regard to that point. When typing in point type your text will continue along a single line—even going off the artboard—unless you press enter to start a new line of text. Point type treats text like an image: if you scale it, you'll change the text size, and you can easily rotate it to get upside-down or sideways text. This can be useful for labeling vertical axes.
If you hold shift while rotating point text, it will constrain the rotation to 45° angles.
Select the Graph Tool and either click+drag out a graph area by sight, or click once and enter in the exact size you want the graph to be (not including the legend and value/category information). Either way, a graph object and data field will appear. Copy + paste your data into the data field. The only file you can import is a tab-delimited text file (which you can save an Excel sheet as)—so in general, copy+paste is more expedient.
You can specify how many decimals you want shown from Cell Style button. Hit the checkmark to apply the data. Use the Transpose row/column button to easily switch the rows and columns if you need to for your graph to display correctly. To edit the data later, select the graph and go to Object-->Graph-->Data.
You can easy change colors, fonts, column width and spacing--anything about the graph can be changed somehow (if you don’t know how, you can ask a Digital Media Tutor or Educational Technologist).
To edit you graph, select the graph and go to Object-->Graph-->Type. From Graph Options you can switch between graph types (i.e. pie chart, bar graph, line, scatter plot, etc.) and change the column width. Value Axis and Category Axis allow you to modify the numbers/range shown on the axes, as well as the make the tick marks full width (or remove them).
One useful trick is selecting subgroups—for example, all columns with the same color, and their corresponding legend key, are a subgroup, and you can quickly change the color of all of them! Using the white selection tool, click on one item in the subgroup (such as the legend key) and then hold alt (you should see a plus sign to the lower left of the cursor) and click on it again to select the subgroup.
You can hand draw error bars for bar graphs. You may wish to contact a Digital Media Tutor or Educational Technologist for specific instruction.
Draw a line of the appropriate length, based on your data. Select the line and open the Stroke panel (accessible by clicking Stroke in the menu bar.)
Change the arrowheads to flat error bar heads. You may wish to change the scale of the arrowheads (the scale is relative to the weight of the line and can be larger than 100%).
Position the error bar over the graph; duplicate and modify as needed. Proficiency with the line tool, alignment tools, and grouping can make this process quick and easy—so get help from a tutor or technologist!
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