How to make a line chart in Illustrator with Datylon
As of the end of the 2021 Men’s tennis season, Novak Djokovic is holding 1st place in the world ranking, continuing the story of the dominance of The Big Three: Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, which lasted for almost two decades, starting in 2003. In this tutorial, we’ll create two line charts that will help to trace the history of this phenomenon.
If you want to follow the steps, you can download the data that we are using here. Together, we will make this visualization, step by step. This will allow you to get familiar with the line chart properties in the Datylon chart maker plug-in for Illustrator. Hopefully, this will help you understand how to further design your own line chart in Adobe Illustrator. In the end, our graph will look like this:
Download and install Datylon for Illustrator
For this tutorial, we assume you have already downloaded and installed the Datylon for Illustrator plug-in. If not, you can sign in and download the plug-in here. If you need help with installing the plug-in, make sure to check this article.
1. Preparing the artboard
It’s a good idea to prepare your artboard before creating a visualization. In most cases you need a chart of a certain size and proportions, so taking care of this in advance will make your life easier. You can set the height and width before creating a document or later in the process. For our design, we will set the size of our artboard to 1920 by 1200 pixels.
2. Drawing the chart area
First off, we’ll need to draw the chart area by selecting the Datylon icon in the AI toolbar and drawing a rectangle that more or less fits the desired dimensions of the line chart. You can later easily resize the chart if needed: chart elements will be redistributed in the same proportions. By releasing the rectangle, the Datylon pane will appear.
Select the right chart type in the chart library by scrolling down a bit and clicking on the line chart card. Make sure you click the card and not the select button. Clicking ‘select’ will immediately select the first default chart of that chart type and that might not always be what you want. Instead, clicking on the entire tile will display all different variations of a line chart.
Default charts serve as a starting point to help you design your chart. So if you already know where you want to go with the design, these defaults could help you get there faster. In the case of the line chart, we can choose from 17 default charts. The first three charts are simple one-line charts with different axes, interpolation, and fill options. The next three charts are multiple line charts with different interpolation options. The seventh default chart showcases the datetime data type applied to the X-axis. The next three charts point out the possibilities of highlighting certain lines and avoiding the visual noise of a spaghetti chart. The next two charts are variations of the bump chart. Then we have two default slope charts. The last three charts are line charts with a 90-degree turn of an X-axis.
For this tutorial, we’ll go with the fourth default chart.
Once you have selected your default chart, the Datylon editor appears. On the left side, you can see a data pane, and on the right side is the editor. The editor in itself contains a binding tab, a data formatting tab, and a styling tab.
3. Adding data
Let’s take a look at the data pane. There are a few ways of adding data:
- Type or copy-paste your data into an empty or dummy data sheet.
- Add a workbook from the Datylon web app
- Import a locally saved data file.
We are going to use a file we have saved locally on our computer. Simply click Manage Data > Add > Import File and browse to find your data. As the data is added you can see its preview. Our data is placed into a workbook which consists of two data sheets: “Year-end ranking” and “Win Rates”. We’ll start with “Year-end ranking” by selecting it and clicking ‘Select Sheet’.
4. Binding the data
Once the data update is complete, the chart is crossed out and an error message ““X” values should be of type ‘number’” appears. It means that the plug-in expects values that are bound to the X-axis to be numerical. Currently, the “Year” values are bound to X-axis and as it is expected to stay categorical for our purpose, the X-axis data type should be changed. To do that, go to X Axis > Type and set it to Categorical. The error message is now gone and we can see the chart as we should. The binding is correct without any adjustments, so we can move on to styling.
5. Styling the first line chart
The first chart is supposed to be a bump chart showing year-end rankings of Djokovich, Nadal, and Federer. So the Y-axis should have higher rankings on the top. To do that simply apply Reverse property under Styling > Y Axis. Now the axis labels start from 2 and have an interval of 1 label per 2 counts. It makes more sense to start from 1 and have a label for every count. To do that go to Styling > Y Axis > Major Ticks and Grid > Custom Ticks Amount and set Ticks Interval to 1 and Starting Tick to 1. Also turn off Minor Ticks and Grid by clicking the eye icon, as they won’t be relevant in the context of the rating.
The font of the Y-Axis labels seems to be a bit large, so it’s better to change it to 28 px under Styling > Y Axis > Labels > Character > Typeface > Size. Also, X-Axis labels seem to be overlapping with Y-Axis labels. To avoid the overlapping go to Styling > X Axis > Labels > Vertical Offset and set it to 24 px. It would be also better to make X-Axis labels font a bit smaller too. To do that go to Styling > X Axis > Labels > Character > Typeface > Size and set it to 32 px. Now both axes look better.
Now we need to label the line: turn on the Direct Labels by clicking on the eye icon. Direct Labels appear but not the ones we counted on. To have names instead of “New Series” go to the Binding tab and type in the corresponding names into the Name field for all series. Now the naming is correct but the positioning is not quite right. Direct Labels are expected to be placed on the right side of the chart. To place them that way go to Styling > Direct Labels > Location and set it to Side. Looks better but each label takes two lines while taking one line will be enough. To do that go to Styling > Direct Labels > Paragraph and click an eye icon to turn off Paragraph. Also, change Typeface to PT Sans Bold 32 px for better readability.
Now let’s move to line properties. First, change the weight of the line by going to Styling > Line > Stroke and setting it to 3px. Also, for the sake of readability, add data marks. Go to Styling > Data Marks and turn them on using the eye icon. If the color of the lines needs to be changed, multiple options are available, but in this case, if a specific color needs to be used for every tennis player it’s better to assign colors on a series level. Start by going to Styling > Series > Novak Djokovich > Line > Stroke > Solid and set the color to #29abe2. Then do the same for the next two series using #93278f and #39b54a colors. Adjust the size of the chart a bit so there's some additional space on the right and on the left. And we’re done with the first line chart.
6. Styling the second line chart
The second chart will be very similar to the first one in terms of styling, so the best solution is to copy and paste it. Use Copy and Paste In Place Illustrator options so that the width of the chart is the same. Then move the second line chart under the first one so they don’t overlap with each other.
Then change the data sheet by clicking Manage Data, selecting “Win Rates” data sheet, and clicking “Select sheet”. The warning “Starting tick should fail within the data range” appears. This means that the starting tick of one of the axes doesn’t match the data that is bound to this axis. To fix that go to Styling > Y Axis > Custom Ticks Amount and click on the eye icon.
The warning is gone, but Y-Axis is still not working as it is expected: the highest values are at the bottom while the lowest ones are at the top. To change that go to Styling > Y Axis and uncheck the Reverse checkbox. It’s obvious that the X-axis duplicates the X-axis of the first chart, so it makes sense to remove axis labels from the second line chart. It’s possible to leave the axis line and ticks, but move them to the top of the chart. To do that first go to Styling > X Axis > Labels and turn off them by clicking the eye icon. Then to move the axis line to the top check Flip Location checkbox under Styling > X Axis.
Few adjustments need to be made in the Y-axis. As it represents the win rate, it is better to add a percentage sign for every axis label. To do that go to Styling > Y Axis > Labels > Suffix and type in the “%” sign. Another small adjustment is to change the min and max values of the Y-axis to have a bit more space at the top and at the bottom. Go to Styling > X Axis and set Min Value to 65 and Max Value to 100%. Then adjust a bit the width of the chart so the positioning of the ticks matches the labels’ positioning.
7. Adding a title, subtitle, and annotations
On top of the chart add a title using Illustrator Type Tool: “The Big Three dominated men’s single tournaments from 2003 to 2021”. Use 48 px PT Sans Bold grey (#4d4d4d) font. Then add a subtitle “Djokovich, Nadal and Federer year-end rating and win percentage”. Use 32 px PT Sans Regular grey (#4d4d4d) font. To use the subtitle as a legend, color the names of the tennis players with corresponding colors: Djokovic (#29abe2), Nadal (#39b54a), and Federer (#93278f).
Now there are no visual clues on what the Y-Axis of each line chart is communicating. Let’s add axis labels using the Illustrator Type Tool. For the top chart its “Year-end rating”, for the bottom one its “Win rate”. For both labels use 28 px PT Sans Bold font in the same grey color as the titles (#4d4d4d).
If we take a closer look at the top line chart it’s notable that in ‘16-’17 all of the players suffered a significant rating drop. To explain this performance drop it's a good idea to add annotations. It is easily done with the Illustrator Type Tool and Line tool. First add text explaining the performance drop using the corresponding color of each player: “Skipped half a year due to knee injury” (Federer), “Suffered a wrist injury. Subsequently ended the season for a full recovery” (Nadal), “Skipped half a year due to knee injury” (Djokovich). Use 28 px PT Sans Italic font. Then add a line connecting the text with the corresponding data mark on the line. As the green connector line intersects with the violet line, right-click on it and select Arrange > Send to Back so that the connector line is behind the chart line. And the chart is ready!
8. Using and sharing
Congratulations! If you followed the steps above, you created your line chart in Illustrator. Once you are happy with your design, you can export this chart as an image (PNG, SVG, etc.) like you would do with any other Illustrator project and use it in all kinds of tools like PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Google Slides, etc. You can also add the AI file to your Indesign documents and when updating the chart in AI, the link will make sure it is also updated in the Indesign document.
You can also export this chart to our Datylon web app and start collaborating on the template.
To do this, open the Datylon Account pane in Illustrator via Windows > Extensions > Datylon Account. Log in to your account, give the chart a title and description, and export it to the Datylon platform. From here, you can easily receive and manage data, reuse your template by updating it with new data or share the design by publishing it for the world to see! You can also learn more about how to work with Datylon templates here.
LINE CHART RESOURCES
Knows how every Datylon chart property works. Probably