How to Create a Timeline in Illustrator

Written by daniel ketchum
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When you are teaching a social sciences class, be it history or anthropology, it is often useful to provide your students with charts known as timelines of chronologies. These timelines will provide a visual reference for a period of history that they are studying. While you could purchase commercially made timeline charts, this would not be specific to your lectures. Instead, use Illustrator to create your own timeline with the information they really need for the exams.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Load any historical images or clip art that you want to use in your timeline onto your computer, saving them to the same folder.

  2. 2

    Start the Illustrator application. Select "File" from the menu at the top and click "New." In the dialogue, enter the width and height to what you want for your timeline. Set the "Raster Effects" to "High." Click "OK."

  3. 3

    Select the "Rectangular" tool from the toolbar. In the options at the top, set the fill to whatever colour you like. Then drag a narrow strip across the canvas that is slightly larger than the font size you want to use for dates.

  4. 4

    Click on the "New Layer" button and lock the previous layer. Select the "Type" tool from the toolbar. In the options, choose the font style, size and colour you want for the dates in your timeline. Position the type tool over the bar and type in the dates for this timeline.

  5. 5

    Create another layer and type in the information for each date above or below the timeline. Alternating entries between above and below allows you to add more information to each timeline.

  6. 6

    Select "File" from the menu and choose "Place." In the dialogue, browse to and open one of the images you want to add to the timeline. After you have positioned it on the timeline, repeat this step to bring in all of your images. Save your work.

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