Simple Graphing in Windows

Copyright 2010 by Morris Rosenthal - All Rights Reserved

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Copyright 2010 by Morris Rosenthal

All Rights Reserved

How to Create a Graph in Windows Paint and Make Your Own Graph Paper

If you have data you want to graph but don't have the patience to learn a new piece of software (or the money to purchase Microsoft Office or a graphing package), graphing in Windows Paint may be for you. I've drawn and published many graphs in Paint, and while it has its limitation, it also offers 100% control, since you are literally drawing the graph, as opposed to having it automatically generated from data points. The only thing you need to start graphing in Paint is some data, and for this example, we'll just make that up as we go along.

Step #1 - Making Graph Paper

The basic process of creating a graph in Paint requires you to draw two parallel lines, and thanks to the line drawing tool, this is very simple to do. You select the line drawing tool, draw your first line (moving the mouse up and down at the end to work out any steps), then go back and draw another line above it, at the spacing you'd like your graph grid to have. That's basically the whole job. Now you make sure that opacity is turned on in Paint (last item in the image menu), and copy and paste your first two line a couple time, in each past, using the top line of the graph to perfectly align the bottom line of the addition. Once you've built up a few lines, you can copy and paste the whole collection, and it goes a lot faster. Once you have the number of graph line you want, copy the whole mass, use Image>Flip/Rotate to rotate it 90 degrees, and then paste the original block back over it. Trim the graph if necessary, and save it as a BMP file as your starting point. This drawing process is shown in the video below:

And the result:

Step #2 - Labeling The Axis

Probably the most difficult step in the Paint graphing process is labeling the axis. This is done in Paint with the text tool, and there's no provision for creating vertical, centered text. This means I usually go with capital letters for labels as they are easier to align, and I try to to go text crazy on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis is easy to deal with, and any spacing issues can be dealt with using cut and paste. You don't have to drop a label on every single graph grid line, as long as it will be obvious to the reader what the progression is. For this example, we are going to graph the sales that could have been of four books I didn't get around to publishing: The Loud Talking Diet , Dow 20,000 by2008 , My Second Novel, Meeting Jewish Women On Mars. To make it a little more interesting, we'll say that the Diet book was not published in January 2006, the Dow book in September 2006, the Novel in January 2007 and the Mars book also in April 2007. Sales for these books runs (or would have run) a few thousand copies a year, so we'll graph them by quarter.

And the result:

I went a little overboard with the numbering on the vertical axis for sales, doing every 250 or even every 500 would have left more open room, but it does make it easier to draw the data in when you don't have to count lines.

Step #3 - Graphing The Data

The easiest way to prepare data for graphing is to create a table with the same labels as the graph. You can see that my Dow 20,000 title suffered an embarrassing setback, but both my novel and my dating tips book are picking up steam, proving that fiction sells in bad times. We'll but the time line on the horizontal axis, as is traditional, and the sales data on the vertical access. To differentiate between the different titles, we'll use color. The basic rule they taught us in Physics or Chemistry lab (forgot which) is that the human eye can do a decent job dividing the space between two lines into 10, for either for graphing or for reading instruments, like a thermometer. That means the least significant digit of the data below isn't really represented on this graph, but to make it so, the graph would have to be ten times as large.

Title/Quarter Diet Dow Novel Mars
1stQ 2006 204
2ndQ 2006 357
3rdQ 2006 316 409
4thQ 2006 751 801
1stQ 2007 322 645 17
2ndQ 2007 402 889 88 432
3rdQ 2007 551 950 56 675
4thQ 2007 1116 1243 75 885
1stQ 2008 341 1039 43 657
2ndQ 2008 321 563 101 840
3rdQ 2008 543 134 150 965
4thQ 2008 842 18 300 1199
1stQ 2009 214 0 215 906

This video is the best of the bunch since I adjusted down the capture area, will have to decide whether or not the first two are worth redoing:

And the result:

The lines in Paint graphs do show a bit jaggy because the pixel size is quite large, but I don't find it an issue in getting the point across and adding a little quick color to a website. Even with the overdone second step where I did way too much labeling on the axis, was barely over 20 minutes, and I certainly could have done it quicker if I wasn't distracted by talking the whole time:-)