Illustrator Tutorial: Eye-Catching 3d Pie Graph

final effect

In this short illustrator tutorial, we will create an eye-catching 3D pie chart from raw data and explore several techniques for making better graph charts. Adobe Illustrator is the best tool for this job at least for me. Sometimes, we have to make eye catching graphs and illustrator is the best for this job.

However, if you want to make specialized graphs and flowcharts then don’t go for illustrator. Instead, go for some other specialized tools or Microsoft excel but if you want to control the presentation of the graph then Adobe illustrator is for you.

We will complete the process in 4 easy steps and at the end we will have a 3d stunning graph for your presentation.

1. Key in the data

2. Coloring the chart

3. Making the pie chart 3D

4. Labeling graph data

Project Scenario

I have a site with google analytics installed which show some the users coming on my site everyday and also their browser type. So I had taken this as reference for this tutorial. It includes chrome, Netscape, safari, opera, flock,
firefox and Internet explorer.

Key in the data

1. So let’s get started. Begin with a  new RGB document. Unless you have a specific size in mind, set the size to web default (800 x 600 pixels).

On the Toolbox, click and hold on the Column Graph Tool to reveal the other graph tools behind it. We want the Pie Graph tool (see first figure below). With the pie graph tool, click and drag out a rectangular area to contain the graph and its legend. When you release, the Graph Data window will appear (see second figure below).


2. The Graph Data window looks (pretty much) like any spreadsheet application. This is the brain of your charts, where all data, labels, and categories are entered and modified. The cells may hold values (numbers) or labels and categories (text and numbers). Data may be entered many levels deep to create fiendishly complex graphs, but we’re going to keep it simple with just one row of labels and one row of data.


3. Click in the top-left cell, which will load that cell into the cell entry box above, and type “Internet
Explorer”, our first data label. Press the Tab key after typing to commit the change and advance to the next cell along the top row. Enter the remaining labels the same way: “firefox”, “Flock”, “Opera”, “Safari”, “Nettsacpe”, and “Chrome”. In the end, you should have seven labeled columns along the top row (see figure below).


4. Naturally, if you’re working on your own graph project, replace my labels (and later
data) with your own.

Now that the labels are done, let’s enter the actual data from which our pie
and its pieces will be drawn. Click each cell under each label and enter their numbers.


5. After all data has been entered, click the Apply button. Behind the Graph Data window
you should see something akin to the figure below. Go ahead and close the Graph
Data window and save your document.


Coloring the Chart

6. If you’re content with a graph as boring as the chart above, go ahead and stop working now. In the following steps, we’ll add some colors before giving the graph some depth in the next section (”Making the Pie Graph 3D”).

Grab the Group Selection tool from behind the Direct Selection tool. Click twice on one of the pie sections to select both the slice and its legend. Cool, huh?

Now, using both the Swatches or Color palette, give it a fill—a solid color, gradient, or pattern and/or a stroke. If you plan to make your pie three-dimensional in the next step, don’t give it a stroke. Because of the blessed Group Selection tool, both the slice and the legend can be styled at once without breaking the graph’s link to its data—you can go back and change the dataset at any time.


7. Now, using the Swatches or Color palette, give it a fill—a solid color, gradient, or pattern—and/or a stroke. If you plan to make your pie three-dimensional in the next step, don’t give it a stroke. Because of the Group Selection Tool, both the slice and the legend can be styled at once without breaking the graph’s link to its data—you can go back and change the dataset at any time.


Making the Pie Chart 3D

8. Colors are great but a 3d effect can often (not always!) give a pie chart more impact, making the data easier to stare at going into that third hour of a 20-minute meeting.

The very first thing we need to do is separate the legend. So, grab the Direct Selection tool and drag a selection rectangle around just the legend (labels and colored boxes). Copy them with (Cmd+C/Ctrl+C).

Make a new layer, and paste (in front) the copied legend to it with (Cmd+F/Ctrl+F). Rename the layer to Legend. This legend is now disconnected from the graph. Next, hide the Legend layer.


9. Back to our first layer, select the graph with the Selection tool, and choose Object > Graph > Data, which will get you back to the Graph Data window.

In the Graph Data window, click the first cell in the top row and press Delete on your keyboard to wipe it out. Repeat until you’ve emptied the top row.

Select your second row by clicking in the first cell and dragging to the last. Instead of deleting, however, press (Cmd+X/trl+X) to cut the information. Click once in the leftmost cell of the top row and paste the data in with (Cmd-V/Ctrl+V).


10. Click the Apply button and close the Graph Data window.


11. Select the graph with the Selection tool. If your graph has a stroke, remove it. Now, choose Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.

In the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options dialog below, turn on Preview and begin by choosing a Position preset from the drop-down menu at the top. For most graphs, I would suggest beginning with Off-Axis Bottom and working from there.


12. Click and drag any face, side, or corner of the track cube to change the graph’s rotation in three-dimensional space, or adjust the values in the X-, Y-, and Z-axis measurement fields. The measurement fields accept angles from negative 180° through positive 180°. Changing either the track cube or the axis fields will update the other. The blue face of the track cube is the front surface of your graph.

Changing the Perspective measurement field will distort your graph to create the impression of distance-use this sparingly as it will introduce distortion of your pie that may render the relative size of the pieces difficult to ascertain.

If you’re happy with the thickness of your graph and its lighting, just click OK (see figure below). Otherwise, play with the Extrude Depth to get the thickness you’d like. Changing the Bevel can give you rounded, beveled, or scalloped edges. After rotating the X-, Y-, and Z-axes to 31°, -19°, and 4°, respectively, and leaving all other options at their defaults, my pie graph looks much more interesting than it did flat.


13. Clicking the More Options button will reveal advanced lighting options where you may choose a shading type and modify the light(s) and shadows created from the extrusion and rotation. When you’ve finished setting the options for 3D Extrude & Bevel, click OK.

Turn on your Legend layer. Look at those color key swatches. Are they too big? They were for mine (see below), so I resized them in one swift motion. Unless you’re making a pie chart for the elderly, you may want to do the same. With the Selection tool, select all the colored rectangles. Then choose Object > Transform > Transform Each.

In the Transform Each dialog, turn on Preview in the bottom right, then change the Horizontal and/or Vertical scale to suit your graph. Unlike scaling via the Transform palette, Transform Each will scale each object within its own space rather than treating the individual paths as a group and transforming them relative to one another-which would force you to manually realign each block to its text label after scaling.

Style the type of your labels (if desired), and save your document. It now looks good. Figure below shows my final pie graph. How did I get the labels on the side? Keep reading… we’re almost there…


Labelling Graph Data

14. For a little extra clarity of data presentation, try applying labels directly to your pie pieces-or columns, rows, or whatever in other chart types-in addition to your legend.

Off on the pasteboard or on a new layer, click with the Type tool to create a point type object. Now type in your first legend label. With the pie graph we built, the first item would be “Font”. Style the type as you like, but make it a color that contrasts with the color of the pie pieces.

Hold the Cmd/Ctrl key and click away from the point type object to deselect it. Now click again with the Type tool and make your second label. Repeat this until you have separate point type objects for each of your pie pieces.

One at a time, drag your type labels into the Symbols palette to create new symbols from each of them. I heartily recommend you rename the new symbols to something meaningful like Label – Fonts, Label – 3D Models, and so on. After creating symbols, delete the original path type objects.

Select the 3D graph with the Selection tool, and, on the Appearance Palette, double-click the 3D Extrude & Bevel attribute to reopen the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options.

Turn Preview back on (annoying, isn’t it, that Preview turns off every time you come back?), then click on the Map Art button. In the Map Art dialog, the Symbol drop-down contains the label symbols we just made. Top right is the surface to which they will be applied. The arrows allow you to navigate between all the faces created by 3D Extrude & Bevel. Dominating the dialog is a preview of the object’s surface. A light surface in the current view indicates a face that is visible with the current rotation of the graph; a dark rectangle denotes a surface that is not currently visible.

If you peer around the Map Art dialog, you will see on the 3D graph a red outline revealing which surface is currently shown in the Map Art dialog. Using the arrows, move through the surfaces of your graph until you reach a visible side (see figure below).


15. From the Symbol drop-down, choose the correct label for that slice. It will instantly appear in the main part of the Map Art dialog. If you remembered to check Preview in the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options prior to entering Map Art, your graph should update as well to show the placement of the label.

Is the label where and how you want it? Note that the symbol instance in the Map Art dialog has a bounding box. Use the bounding box to move, resize, and/or rotate the label until it fits your graph where and how you’d like. To rotate, hover your cursor just beyond a corner control point. When the cursor becomes a curved, double-headed arrow, click and drag to rotate (Shift-drag to constrain to increments of 45°).


16. Again using the arrows, move through the 3D graph’s surfaces, applying the labels where needed. If you may at some point rotate your graph, go ahead and apply the labels to surfaces hidden now that may become exposed during a rotation. Doing it now will save on accidental omissions later. Just before you click OK, turn on Shade Artwork-or don’t, as you prefer.



17. Labels add an extra touch to my pie chart, as you can see in our final 3D pie chart below. Incidentally, the pie chart shadow I created Drop Shadow live effect. Once again, here’s our final 3D pie chart.


Download Source File
Download Source File

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  1. Very helpful, but could you explain how to make the extruded side portion match the colors of the individual pie chart wedges?

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