Gradient ring chart in Illustrator

03 Aug 2010

In my previous Illustrator tutorial, I showed you how easy it is to create a gradient ring, by creating a gradient Art Brush using the blend tool. Today, I'll show you my steps how I created the browser landscape graph, starting from a pie chart and a set of gradient Art Brushes.

Prepare the brushes

Create an Art Brush for each gradient

First of all I created a set of gradient Art Brushes, one for each gradient ring segment. This is not that much work if you are dealing with only a few segments, but in case you have way too many segments, you may want to resort to only 1 Art Brush…

Prepare the graident Art Brushes

Create a black & white Art Brush with Hue Shift Colorization Method

This is possible by creating a gradient Art Brush going from white to black. Then in the brush options, you choose Hue Shift as Colorization Method. Choosing this method makes it possible to change the hue of the stroke after you've applied the brush.

Create a black & white Art Brush with Hue Shift Colorization Method

You may wonder why I choose to create different Art Brushes for each gradient if it's possible with 1 brush. Well, the thing is that you only have control over the hue of the entire stoke and not specifically of the starting and ending color separately of the gradient. For example it wouldn't be possible to go from purple to blue. So you have control up to a certain level, but if you really want to apply a specific color for starting and ending point you need to create them 1 by 1.

Apply a different color to the stroke

In the above example I've chosen the white to black gradient brush and green as stroke color which changes the hue of the gradient to green. This is the faster way of applying different gradients to each segments of the graph. It's up to you how you want to color your graph. The second one I drew, showing all browsers and their versions uses mostly the white to black gradient brush with a different hue applied to each segment.

Create the Pie Chart

With the data I had I first created a pie chart…

Drag a rectangle to create the Pie Chart

Select the Pie Chart tool from the toolbox, located under the Column Graph tool and click drag a rectangle where the graph should appear.

Enter the Pie Chart data

Enter your data. When finished click the checkmark to confirm. This tutorial is focussed on the creation of the gradient ring segments and not really on the creation of the graph using the Pie chart tool. However for people who want to learn more about this, here is a step-by-step tutorial I wrote years ago about the creation of Illustrator Pie Charts.

Now that we have created our pie chart we need to add colors for each segment. We could just go further with this and keep the link with our data table, but we want a ring shape not a pie. So we're going to break the link with the data table and even get rid of the whole pie. We will just use the pie as a guide to draw our gradient ring chart on top.

Convert the Pie Chart into guides

We don't need the legend so we'll delete that part. First, select the graph and ungroup the object by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + shift + g. Illustrator will warn you that the link with the data table will be broken. Click OK. Select the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and select the legend, hit delete. Select the pie and convert it into guides by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + 5. Make sure guides are turned on (go to View > Guides > Show Guides or toggle between showing and hiding guides using Cmd/Ctrl + ;). Instead of using guides, you could also target the layer, go to the Transparency palette and choose 20% (or another value), then lock the layer (lock icon) and create a new layer on top by clicking the New Layer icon. Just choose what you like best here.

Create the gradient ring segments

Create the ring

Select the Ellipse tool and draw a circle, starting from the center of the pie chart. Click with the Ellipse tool in the center of the Pie Chart, hold down the mouse and start dragging to the outside, hold down the Shift + Alt/Option key. The Alt/Option key is needed here to create the circle from its center point.

Create the gradient ring

With the circle selected, select Transparent fill and select the Art brush for the first segment of the graph. Now this might need a bit of resizing, moving and probably also tweaking the stroke weight, but you need to make sure that the outside border of the ring touches the border of the pie chart guide. It should be a perfect match.

Save a copy of the ring

If the ring is perfect, copy it and paste it in a separate layer just incase something would go wrong along the way: go to the Layers palette, click the New Layer icon to create a new layer. For now, lock and hide the layer (click lock icon and eye icon).

Cut into segments

Select the Scissors tool from the toolbox and click on each beginning and ending point of the pie segments. In other words you need to give the path a cut on each Pie Chart segment intersection.

Cut the ring into segments

Make sure to zoom in on the smaller segments of the ring. Sometimes Illustrator can be really picky and show you a message that you need to use the Scissors tool on a segment or anchor point of a path, but a bezier handle could prevent you from doing so, and so the only option to get around this is to zoom in very big.

Make sure to zoom in on the small segments

If all goes well you should end up with a ring consisting of different path segments.

The ring cut into segments

Apply the Art Brushes

Now it's a matter of applying the preferred Art Brush to each segment. Here you either apply a different brush for each segment, or you apply the white to dark gradient Art Brush and select a different stroke color for each segment, changing the hue of the gradient.

Apply the Art brushes on each segment

We are as good as done now. The only thing I did was adding a final touch by adding a white border in between the segments and around the ring. Another thing I did was moving each segment into a separate layer to keep things extra organized. This is something of importance when you create a more complex graph than this one, but I thought I point this out.

Move each segment into a separate layer

Final touch

Add white borders

Select the Ellipse tool and draw a circle that matches the outside border of the ring, starting from the center of the graph just like you did before: click in the center of the Pie Chart, hold down the mouse and start dragging to the outside, hold down the Shift + Alt/Option key. Draw another circle from the inside out that matches the inside border of the ring. Give both circles a white border (I used a weight of 2pt) and no fill.

Draw inside and outside circle

Select both circles and select the Horizontally Align Center and Vertically Align Center option from the Align palette or from the Control bar at the top.

Horizontally and Vertically Align Center both circles

Select the Line tool from the toolbox and add white lines in between the ring segments by clicking in the begin point, and drag towards the end point (do not release the mouse after you have clicked). Make sure to apply the same stroke weight as you did for the circles.

Add white lines in between the ring segments

Make sure to zoom in when you draw the lines so the beginning and ending points of the lines align perfectly with the inner and outer circles and there is no gap or extra overlap.

Zoom in to do a perfect job

The end result should look like this:

Gradient ring chart with white strokes in between each segment.

Once I finished the graph I added the legend and the labels. For the legend I used the same brush stroke, but added a circle mask on top. When I had the legend and labels in place I copied the whole thing and pasted it right into my Photoshop document as a Smart Object. For the more complex graph I used Darken as layer mode, so the white strokes in between each segment become transparent and the background comes through. I duplicated the Smart Object a few times, resized them and used layer transparency to create this transparent overlapping effect.

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial :)

Comments

  1. 1 Chris Wharton 03 Aug 2010

    Awesome, I’ve been waiting for this, thanks Veerle - another fantastic tutorial!

  2. 2 B. Moore 03 Aug 2010

    Another great illustrator tutorial, thank you Veerle!

  3. 3 gromek 04 Aug 2010

    Hi Veerle, his is actually very nice, but somehow I just cannot properly replicate the change of hue with that black gradient Art Brush.
    Though I follow your steps closely the whole gradient (applied to my object as a brush) turns a more or less solid colour once I apply, say, RGB-red to the stroke as shown in your third screenshot. With other colours some gradient may remain, but the light end (formerly white) will be a significantly darker hue most of the time. Strange!
    This all applies to Illustrator CS5, though I don’t know if t his is version specific.

  4. 4 Veerle Pieters 04 Aug 2010

    @gromek

    Though I follow your steps closely the whole gradient (applied to my object as a brush) turns a more or less solid colour once I apply, say, RGB-red to the stroke as shown in your third screenshot. With other colours some gradient may remain, but the light end (formerly white) will be a significantly darker hue most of the time. Strange!

    That’s how it works I’m afraid. You are doing it all fine and it’s not version specific. I just tried in CS4 and I get the same you are describing. I was doubting at first whether to mention this at all because of this *problem*. Some colors seem to work just fine and others don’t. In general I prefer to work blend by blend. I don’t mind making the extra effort, for a nicer result in the end.

  5. 5 Raquel 06 Aug 2010

    Nice design! Fantastic!

  6. 6 Jake F. 06 Aug 2010

    AWESOME!

    I actually did some tinkering after part 1 of this tutorial and produced an identical result using a slightly different method. I actually stumbled across that old “how to make graphs” tutorial you made that you linked to on this part of the tutorial when i was experimenting.

    I know you have some cool tutorials on V2.0 of your blog (i asked you to link to them when you updated o 3.0 because i couldn’t find the old tutorials anymore- Thanks for posting that link). I was just curious if you have some more tutorials that you have done in the past that are pre-Blog V 2.0 that we haven’t seen? I think it would be really cool if you can share them with us if they exist. I’m sure everyone would get a kick out of seeing some old cool tricks and seeing the evolution of design technique through your tutorials!

  7. 7 Veerle Pieters 07 Aug 2010

    @Jake F.

    I was just curious if you have some more tutorials that you have done in the past that are pre-Blog V 2.0 that we haven’t seen?

    Nope, version two goes all the way back to 2003 as imported the content from version 1. All the tutorials are in the archives of Veerle’s blog 2.0

  8. 8 Mark 13 Aug 2010

    I really enjoyed your tutorial.

  9. 9 jaypegams 17 Aug 2010

    Extremely useful tutorial thank you very much. Will try to replicate very soon.

  10. 10 Danny Cheeseman 28 Aug 2010

    Great tutorial, also LOVE the look of your website. Very creative.

    Keep on bloggin’

  11. 11 Tom West 01 Sep 2010

    Pie charts are evil!
    If you are serious about trying to present data in a grpahical way, then you shouldn’t use pie charts… humans are bad at comparing to angles and tryign to fgure out the relative size (or even which is bigger). If you take a pie chart, re-arrange the slices (or merely rotate the entire disc), then people will think different ones are larger.