Excel Tutorial: How To Make Bar Charts In Excel


Data visualization is a crucial aspect of analyzing and presenting data effectively. Bar charts are a popular tool for visually representing data in a clear and organized manner, making it easier to understand and interpret. In this tutorial, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to create bar charts in Excel, allowing you to enhance your data visualization skills and effectively communicate your findings.

Key Takeaways

  • Bar charts are an essential tool for visually representing data in a clear and organized manner, making it easier to understand and interpret.
  • Organizing your data in columns and formatting it with clear headings is crucial for creating effective bar charts in Excel.
  • Customizing your bar chart by adjusting axis labels, titles, and color schemes can enhance the visual appeal and communication of your data.
  • Adding additional data series and formatting final touches, such as data labels and bar spacing, can further improve the clarity and effectiveness of your bar chart.
  • Practicing and exploring additional chart features in Excel is encouraged to further enhance your data visualization skills.

Setting up your data

Before you can create a bar chart in Excel, you need to ensure that your data is properly organized and formatted. Here are the key steps to setting up your data for a bar chart:

A. Ensuring your data is organized in columns

When creating a bar chart in Excel, it's important to have your data organized in columns. Each column should represent a different category or data series that you want to visualize on the chart. For example, if you are creating a bar chart to compare sales data for different products, you should have one column for each product category.

B. Formatting your data with clear headings

Clear and descriptive headings for your data columns are essential for creating a well-organized bar chart. Make sure to use headings that clearly identify the data that each column represents. This will make it easier to select the data for your chart and to understand the chart once it's created.

Selecting the data for your bar chart

When creating a bar chart in Excel, the first step is to ensure that you have selected the appropriate data to include in the chart. This will help to accurately represent the data and make the chart visually appealing.

A. Highlighting the data you want to include in the chart

To highlight the data you want to include in the bar chart, simply click and drag your mouse over the cells containing the data. You can also hold down the 'Ctrl' key on your keyboard and click on each cell individually to select non-adjacent cells. This will ensure that the selected data accurately represents the information you want to visualize in the bar chart.

B. Choosing the appropriate chart type from the 'Insert' tab

Once you have selected the data, navigate to the 'Insert' tab in the Excel ribbon. Here, you will find a variety of chart types to choose from. Click on the 'Bar Chart' option to see the different subtypes of bar charts available, such as clustered bar, stacked bar, and 100% stacked bar. Select the subtype that best suits your data and visualization preferences.

Customizing your bar chart

When creating a bar chart in Excel, it’s important to customize it to fit your specific data and preferences. This can help make your chart more visually appealing and easier to understand. Here are a few ways you can customize your bar chart:

Adjusting the axis labels and titles

  • Horizontal axis labels: To make your chart easier to read, you can adjust the labels on the horizontal axis. This can include changing the text, font size, and angle of the labels to fit your data better.
  • Vertical axis labels: Similarly, you can customize the labels on the vertical axis to make them more descriptive and easy to understand. You can also adjust the font size and style to make them stand out.
  • Chart title: Adding a title to your chart can help provide context and make it easier for viewers to understand the data being presented. You can customize the font, size, and placement of the title to make it more visually appealing.

Choosing a color scheme that fits your data

  • Color coding: Using different colors for your bar chart can help differentiate between different categories or data sets. Choose colors that complement each other and are easy to distinguish for viewers.
  • Customizing colors: Excel offers a variety of pre-set color schemes, but you can also customize the colors to fit your specific preferences. This can include changing the fill color of the bars, the border color, and the background color of the chart itself.
  • Using color to highlight key data: If there is a specific data point or category that you want to highlight, you can use a contrasting color to make it stand out. This can draw attention to important information within the chart.

Adding additional data series

When creating a bar chart in Excel, you may want to include multiple data sets to compare different values or categories. This can be easily done by adding additional data series to your chart.

Including multiple data sets in one chart

1. Select your chart and go to the “Design” tab on the Excel ribbon.

2. Click on the “Select Data” button in the Data group.

3. In the “Select Data Source” dialog box, click on the “Add” button under the “Legend Entries (Series)” section.

4. In the “Edit Series” dialog box, enter the name of your new data series in the “Series name” field, and select the range of cells that contain the data for the series in the “Series values” field.

Adjusting the chart legend to clearly display the different series

1. Click on the legend in your chart to select it.

2. Right-click and choose “Format Legend” from the context menu.

3. In the “Format Legend” pane, you can make various adjustments to the appearance of the legend, such as changing the font, position, or format. You can also choose which series are displayed in the legend.

  • Tip: To make your chart more visually appealing, consider using different colors or patterns for each data series, which will make it easier for viewers to distinguish between them.

Formatting and final touches

Once you have created your bar chart in Excel, you may want to add data labels and adjust the spacing and width of the bars to make your chart more informative and visually appealing.

A. Adding data labels to the chart

Data labels can provide valuable information to your bar chart, such as the exact values of each bar. Here's how to add data labels to your chart:

  • Select the chart: Click on the bar chart to select it.
  • Add data labels: Go to the "Chart Elements" button on the top-right corner of the chart, then check the "Data Labels" box. This will add the data labels to the bars.
  • Customize data labels: You can further customize the data labels by right-clicking on them and selecting "Format Data Labels." Here, you can change the font, number format, and position of the data labels.

B. Adjusting the spacing and width of the bars

Adjusting the spacing and width of the bars can help improve the clarity and presentation of your bar chart. Here's how to do it:

  • Adjust bar width: Right-click on one of the bars in the chart and select "Format Data Series." In the options that appear, you can adjust the "Gap Width" to change the width of the bars.
  • Modify bar spacing: To adjust the spacing between the bars, right-click on one of the bars and select "Format Data Series." Then, change the "Overlap" to adjust the spacing between the bars.


Creating bar charts in Excel is a useful skill that can help you visualize data in a clear and effective way. To recap, you can make a bar chart by selecting your data, clicking on the "Insert" tab, and choosing "Bar Chart" from the Chart options. From there, you can customize your chart to fit your needs. As you continue to work with Excel, don't be afraid to practice and explore additional chart features. The more you familiarize yourself with the tools and options available, the easier it will be to create professional and informative charts for your projects.

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