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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final part of the comprehensive Illustrator One-on-One series, author and industry expert Deke McClelland shows how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic effects in Illustrator CS5. Deke explores Illustrator’s powerful Gradient Mesh feature, great for creating photorealistic airbrushing effects. He also covers graphic styles, the liquify tools, envelope-style distortions, the new Bristle Brushes, 3D text, and perspective drawing. Exercise files accompany the course.
All right now, I need you to prepare yourself for a little bit of beauty shock, because in this exercise we're going to transition from this beautiful island graphic to the least beautiful thing that Illustrator can do. Because when you first create a graph in Illustrator, it is invariably ugly, and that's just the way you've got to start things out. And we're going to see it in all its ugliness. What we're really going to do is create a basic column graph based on some data that I've created for you in advance. And we're going to do that inside of this document called Hummingbirds.ai, that's found inside the 27_graphs folder.
Now, you may wonder why it's called Hummingbirds.ai since it's a blank document. Over here on the right-hand side of the art board, I have assembled some hummingbirds for you, and we'll use those as design elements before we're done here. But for now, as I say, we need to create the basic graph. So what I'd like you to do is drop down here to the Column Graph tool. And if you click and hold on it, you'll see you have all kinds of graphing options at your disposal. So if you want to represent cumulative data, then you can choose the Stacked Column Graph tool. You've got a Bar Graph tool, and by the way, the difference between a column graph and a bar graph is a bar graph is horizontal and a column graph is vertical.
Then we've got Stacked Bar and we've got line graphs and you've got a Pie Graph tool down here, all sorts of alternatives to fit your graphing needs. But in our case, we're going to set up a basic column graph, so go ahead and grab that tool. And you can do one of two things. It's basically a Rectangle tool. So you can either drag with it to create a rectangular boundary for your graph, or you can click with it. What I'd like you to do is click someplace in the upper-left region if you're working along with me and dial in these values, because it's very hard to scale a graph after you create it.
It's better to create it more or less the size you need it, and this is the size we need this one. It's a width of 280 points and a height of 210 points. If you're sort of staring at me thinking, well, how in the world would I know upfront how big my graph needs to be? You wouldn't. You'll just go ahead and create it at any old size and hope that it works, and then when you find that it doesn't, you'll have to tediously edit that graph or recreate it once you figure out the area that you really need to work inside of. Or you can measure that area before you start. But as I say, it's not impossible to scale the graph after making it.
You can scale it proportionally easily enough. However, if you want to make it taller than it is wide, or something along those lines, that's where it gets to be fairly tedious. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and accept these values. Click OK. And then you get this little spreadsheet window. Here inside Illustrator there is a Spreadsheet function. Now, you can go in and dial in the values you want to graph if you want to, or you can go ahead and import some data, and I recommend you work that way. So click on the Import Data button, and then inside of that 27_graphs folder, I have a couple of bits of data for you.
They're both created inside of Excel, and so one time I went ahead and saved this document, Harmony Joy Peace.xls as a .xls file, which is the older native Microsoft Excel format. However, if you try to open that up-- and a lot of applications are plenty familiar with XLS--but if you try it in Illustrator, if you click open, it says nah, I can't do that. It's not a text file. So that makes you wonder why in the world it showed it to you in the first place. Go ahead and click OK. What you need to do instead is click on Import Data once again and load this text version of the file.
Now, what this is is a tab-delimited text file. And that's something that you can save off from Excel and from any of your other number-crunching programs. So it's a very common format. Go ahead and select it and then click Open, and that will go ahead and populate the spreadsheet. Now, the next thing you do is click on that check mark, which goes ahead and applies your data--without closing the window, by the way--and you'll get this ridiculous data right here. Notice that my numbers are pretty similar to each other-- they fall in a limited range in other words-- from 85 at the lowest, to 99 at the highest.
So what in the world is with these stumpy, little vertical bars here and then these big, huge, tall black ones? And especially troubling is that over here inside the legend, we can see Peace, Joy, Harmony for the three shades of gray, the little stumpy bars, but then the black bar has no label. Well, what Illustrator is trying to do is graph the years, so the years are quite big by comparison to the other numbers. What we need to do to separate the years out so that Illustrator doesn't try to graph them is go ahead and click on one of the years, such as 2012, then click in front of it, up here in this Edit field, and then enter a quote character.
So Shift+Quote in order to get a double quote. You can barely read that there on screen, but that's what it is. Then press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac, to move down to the next number, click in front of it, and again, enter another Shift+Quote character there, so a double quote, and then press Enter again and do the same thing to 2032. Click in front of it, Enter Shift+Quote, press Enter or Return in order to accept that value, and now go ahead and click on the Apply button. And you end up getting this effect instead, where all of the bars are pretty similar to each other, and we have a legend for Peace, Joy, and Harmony, which are those labels up here in the top row, and that's it.
Once you see that result, go ahead and click the close box in order to accept that new graph. And there it is, in all of its glory. As I said, you have to prepare yourself for a little bit of beauty shock when you're going into graphs inside of Illustrator, because they start off incredibly ugly, just like this. But we're going to make it look so much better in future exercises.
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