The Basics of Creating a Pie Graph in Adobe Illustrator

Today I’m going to share with you a quick tutorial on how to create a custom pie graph in Adobe Illustrator that you can insert into your infographics, powerpoint presentations, or any company document.

We will go through a basic graph, the pie graph, to demonstrate this tool. The process will roughly be the same no matter what you’re looking to create — bar graph, line graph, scatter plot, etc.

Getting Started

Let’s find the tool first. It will be located in your tool bar on the left hand side of the screen (see below).

The black arrow in the bottom right corner of the tool indicates there is more than one tool nested in that button. Click and hold the button down until you see the pie graph option.

kellyIGpicture1With your Pie Graph Tool selected, draw a circle of any size on your artboard, you can change the size later. Or, if you know specifically the size you want, click once on the artboard and a dialog will pop up asking you for exact dimensions (see below).

kellyIGpicture2At this point, you should have an artboard with a black circle on it and a dialog box that pops up beside it that looks like this:

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Now, you can import your data from a spreadsheet (using the button circled above) or type it manually into the boxes. Make sure that you hit “enter” or the check to the far top right of the box to apply the numbers to your graph (see below).

kellyIGpicture4Satisfied, you can close the dialog box. The system may or may not prompt you to save the data (this is if you made additional changes after clicking the check mark).

If you want to make multiple pie graphs in the same size, now would be your chance to do so. Copy and paste your graphs however and wherever you want, then right click (or Ctrl click for mac) and select “Data…” and the dialog box will reappear.

kellyIGpicture5Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Designing Your Pie

Make sure your numbers are correct because once we take our graph into design mode we will lose the capability to adjust the numbers.

To take your graph out of its grayscale blob, select the graph and then “Object” and then “Ungroup.”

You will receive a prompt from the system asking if you are sure because of all I said above, so forearmed with this knowledge, click “OK.”

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After the initial “Ungroup” you will now be able to resize your graph, change colors, add/take away strokes etc. To be able to move your pie slices around and individually customize each sliver, you will need to hit Object>Ungroup again, without any prompts this time.

And always remember, when resizing an object hold “Shift” on your keyboard as you do so to prevent stretching and unwanted proportions. Holding shift will keep your pie graph a perfect circle.

Let’s look at some options on how to make your pie graph stand out.

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Don’t forget to add numbers and subtext to complement your graph. And if you ever feel stumped, look for design inspiration – it’s everywhere around you. Take what you find, make it your own and make it better!

Here are some great pie graphs I found that really hit the mark conceptually.

Simple Color and Typography Choices

kellyIG8Using Texture and Pattern

kellyIGpicture8Nested Pies

kellyIGpicture9Embedded with Another Element

kellyIGpicture10Pictorial Pies

Though these don’t necessarily apply to the tutorial, they are great concepts and these could be created digitally with illustrations or icons.

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Now that we have gone through the steps to making a basic pie chart, play with some of the other chart types and see what you can come up with. If you can think of anything I missed or something you would like to learn more about, let me know in the comments below!

About the author

Kelly Quigley