How to Draw the Perfect Timeline Diagram with Creately

Updated on: 28 November 2022 | 5 min read

Timeline diagrams are often used to make complex information easier to understand. They can be effectively used to display the sequence of events over a period of time, in chronological order.  

Timeline diagrams can help

  • visualize any type of development, the progress of a trend, the outline of historical events, phases of a project, business milestones, etc.
  • simplify complex information and make it easy to understand and track
  • highlight significant moments or milestones in time

Whether you are creating a project proposal or a presentation for your school project, Creately has an entirely new library of timeline templates you can use for multiple scenarios.

Save Time with Pre-Made Timeline Templates

Our new timeline library includes professionally-designed, multiple creative timeline templates you can edit and use right away.

timeline shape library to create timelines on Creately
New Creately Timeline Library

New Creately Timeline Library

Whether to visualize the overview of your project or outline your history lessons, use these templates to effortlessly create timelines that look presentation-ready by default.

How to Draw a Timeline Diagram Correctly

You might think drawing a timeline is fairly easy. But there’s a fair bit of work that goes into creating an effective timeline and that’s in addition to the effort you take to make it look presentable.

We’ve broken down the steps to make it easier for you. Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Gather the information you need

Whether it’s a project timeline, an agenda or an outline of a historical event for your school assignment, you need to first have an idea about the details you will represent with your timeline.

Now, usually, the timeline depicts dates, time, location, etc. You can add additional details (i.e. a description of the event) depending on your purpose.

As such, gather enough data on the event you are covering with your timeline before starting it. Talk to your colleagues, teachers, or browse the internet, etc.

Step 2: Create an outline of the timeline

Start by creating a rough outline to help guide yourself through the process. This step will help you filter and list the key details form the research content from the previous step.  

There are a few essential components your timeline should depict; dates, event name, event description and an image(optional).

  • Identify the key events with important dates/ time, locations, people’s names, etc.
  • Pick a start and end date and list the events in between, in chronological order

Step 3: Pick a layout for your timeline

Here, you can start right away with one of the Creately templates, or draw one from scratch.

There are 3 types of timeline layouts you can choose from; vertical, horizontal and snake.

The layout you select should differ based on a number of points, the length of the description and the addition of images.

Vertical layout: Use this type when you have too many points to highlight. Since it’s always easier to scroll down than to the side, you can extend the vertical timeline with each addition of points. Plus it leaves plenty of room to add graphics as well. Your vertical timeline can be left-aligned (better with longer descriptions)  and centered (works great for adding graphics).

Vertical timeline template to create timelines on Creately
Vertical Layout Timeline Diagram (Click on the template to edit it online)

Horizontal layout: You can use this layout when you have fewer points on your timeline. And it’s the most suitable type of layout for presentation slides.

Horizontal timeline maker template
Horizntal timeline maker template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Snake layout: This type works great with many points and little text. If you prefer to keep your timeline fit on a single page, you can use the snake layout instead of the vertical timeline.  Plus it has room to add images as well.

Snake timeline template
Snake timeline template (Click on the template to edit it online)

You can use the timeline outline from the previous step to decide which layout would be more suitable for you based on the amount and length of text.

  • Draw a horizontal/ vertical line
  • Write the start date at the beginning of the line and the end date at the end
  • Keeping space between each event, add them to the timeline
  • When you add descriptions under the events, remember to keep them brief
  • Style your timeline and add images

Step 4: Style your timeline and add images

We’ve put together a brief video to help you understand how to effectively style your timeline diagram on Creately.

How to draw a timeline

  • Apply colors: Styling your timeline diagrams on Creately is hassle-free. The preset color themes make it easier to tailor your diagrams and get it ready for presentations in seconds.
  • Add images: Import images, clipart, gifs, logos, icons, etc. right from your device to the canvas and customize your diagram. Or use the built-in Google image search to find images from across the web.
  • Export your diagrams: You can download your timelines as PNGs, SVGs, PDFs, and JPEGs for printing, sharing or embedding in websites, presentations, etc.
  • Share with others: Want to share your timeline with others? Simply add their email address and send them an edit/ review link for quick access. You can also share access to your timeline diagrams by sharing them on your team’s Slack channel or by creating it from Google Drive.

Ready to Draw Your Timeline?

The timeline diagram is the ideal tool whether you are planning project tasks or narrating a story.

Have you tried our timeline maker yet? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.

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Amanda Athuraliya

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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