Excel Tutorial: How To Make Excel Charts


Excel charts are an essential tool for data visualization and analysis. They help to effectively present and interpret large sets of data, making it easier to identify trends and patterns. In this tutorial, we will cover the basics of creating Excel charts, including bar graphs, line graphs, and pie charts. By the end of this tutorial, you will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to create compelling charts that effectively convey your data.

Key Takeaways

  • Excel charts are essential for data visualization and analysis
  • Understanding the basics of Excel charts, including different types and selecting the right one for your data, is crucial
  • Customizing Excel charts by changing titles, labels, colors, and styles can enhance the visual impact
  • Using advanced chart features like trendlines, error bars, and combination charts can provide deeper insights into the data
  • Effective data visualization with Excel charts involves simplifying the design, avoiding clutter, and highlighting key data points

Understanding the basics of Excel charts

Excel charts are a powerful tool for visualizing and analyzing data. Understanding the basics of Excel charts is essential for creating effective and impactful visualizations.

A. Different types of charts available in Excel
  • Column charts

    Column charts are used to compare values across different categories. They are best suited for showing changes over time or for illustrating comparisons among items.

  • Line charts

    Line charts are ideal for displaying trends over time. They are commonly used to show the relationship between two variables and to visualize continuous data.

  • Pie charts

    Pie charts are used to show the proportion of each item in a data set relative to the whole. They are useful for quickly visualizing the composition of a data set and identifying the most significant contributors.

  • Bar charts

    Bar charts are similar to column charts, but the categories are displayed on the vertical axis instead of the horizontal axis. They are useful for comparing data across different categories.

  • Area charts

    Area charts are ideal for showing the magnitude of change over time. They are similar to line charts, but the area between the line and the axis is filled with color, making it easier to visualize the overall trend.

  • Scatter plots

    Scatter plots are used to display the relationship between two numerical variables. They are often used to identify correlations and patterns in data.

B. Selecting the right type of chart for your data

It's important to select the right type of chart for your data in order to effectively communicate the insights you want to convey. Consider the following factors when choosing a chart type:

  • Data characteristics: Consider the nature of your data, such as whether it is categorical or numerical, and whether it represents a trend or a comparison.
  • Message: Determine the key message you want to communicate with your chart and choose a type that best supports that message.
  • Clarity: Ensure that the chosen chart type provides a clear and easily understandable representation of the data without complicating the visualization unnecessarily.
  • Audience: Consider who will be viewing the chart and choose a type that is most appropriate for their level of understanding and familiarity with data visualizations.

Creating a basic chart in Excel

Creating a chart in Excel can be a useful way to visually represent data and make it easier to understand. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to create a basic chart in Excel.

A. Inputting data into Excel

Before creating a chart, you need to input the data that you want to visualize. Open a new or existing Excel spreadsheet and enter your data into the appropriate cells. Make sure to label your data so that the chart will be clear and easy to understand.

B. Selecting the data for the chart

Once your data is in place, it's time to select the specific cells that you want to include in your chart. Click and drag to select the range of cells that contain the data you want to visualize. This will be the data that is used to create the chart.

C. Inserting the chart into the spreadsheet

With your data selected, navigate to the "Insert" tab in the Excel ribbon. From there, you can choose the type of chart you want to create, such as a bar chart, line chart, pie chart, and more. Click on the chart type you want, and Excel will generate a visual representation of your selected data within the spreadsheet.

Customizing Excel charts

When creating charts in Excel, it's important to remember that customization options are available to make your charts more visually appealing and informative. Here are some ways you can customize your Excel charts:

Changing chart titles and axis labels

  • One of the first customization steps you can take is to change the chart title. This can be done by clicking on the chart title and typing in the new title you want.
  • Similarly, you can change the axis labels by clicking on the chart axis labels and typing in the new labels you want to use.

Adjusting colors and styles

  • Excel allows you to change the colors and styles of your chart elements by clicking on the element you want to change and selecting a different color or style from the formatting options.
  • You can also change the chart type to better fit your data by selecting a new chart type from the "Change Chart Type" option in the Chart Tools menu.

Adding data labels and legends

  • Adding data labels to your chart can help make the information more understandable to your audience. You can do this by clicking on the chart, going to the "Layout" tab, and selecting "Data Labels" from the options.
  • Legends can also be added to your chart to provide additional context. You can do this by clicking on the chart, going to the "Layout" tab, and selecting "Legend" from the options.

Using advanced chart features

Excel offers a wide range of advanced chart features that can enhance the visual representation of your data. In this section, we will explore how to add trendlines and error bars, create combination charts, and use secondary axes for dual-axis charts.

Adding trendlines and error bars

  • Trendlines: To add a trendline to your chart, simply select the chart and navigate to the "Chart Design" tab. Then click on "Add Chart Element" and choose "Trendline" from the dropdown menu. You can customize the type of trendline and its options to best fit your data.
  • Error bars: Error bars can be added to your chart to visually represent the variability of the data. To add error bars, select the chart and go to the "Chart Design" tab. Then click on "Add Chart Element" and choose "Error Bars" from the dropdown menu. You can customize the error bar options to show standard deviation, standard error, or custom values.

Creating combination charts

  • Combining different chart types: Excel allows you to create combination charts by combining different chart types, such as line, bar, and scatter plots, in a single chart. To create a combination chart, select the data you want to plot and go to the "Insert" tab. Then choose the chart type for your first set of data and add the additional data series by right-clicking on the chart and selecting "Change Series Chart Type."
  • Formatting combination charts: Once you have created a combination chart, you can further customize it by formatting each data series and axis to ensure clarity and readability.

Using secondary axes for dual-axis charts

  • When to use a dual-axis chart: A dual-axis chart is useful when you want to compare two different data series that have different scales. For example, if you want to compare sales revenue and profit margin over time, a dual-axis chart can effectively display both sets of data.
  • Adding a secondary axis: To create a dual-axis chart, select the chart and go to the "Chart Design" tab. Then click on "Add Chart Element" and choose "Secondary Axis" for the data series you want to plot on the secondary axis.

Tips for effective data visualization with Excel charts

When it comes to creating Excel charts, it’s important to keep in mind the principles of effective data visualization. Here are some tips to help you create clear and impactful charts.

Simplifying the chart design

  • Keep it simple: Avoid using too many colors, patterns, or shapes in your charts. Stick to a clean and easy-to-read design.
  • Use clear labels: Make sure that your axes and data labels are easy to read and understand.
  • Choose the right chart type: Select the chart type that best presents your data. For example, use a bar chart for comparing different categories, and a line chart for showing trends over time.

Avoiding chart clutter

  • Remove unnecessary elements: Eliminate any chart elements that don’t add value, such as gridlines or background colors.
  • Minimize data points: If your chart contains a large amount of data, consider using aggregation or filtering to focus on the most important points.
  • Use white space effectively: Ensure that there is enough space around your chart to prevent overcrowding and improve readability.

Highlighting key data points

  • Emphasize important data: Use formatting options like bolding, color, or data labels to draw attention to key data points.
  • Add annotations: Include text boxes or callouts to provide additional context or explanations for specific data points on your chart.
  • Utilize trend lines or reference lines: Use trend lines to highlight patterns in your data, or add reference lines to illustrate important thresholds or benchmarks.


In conclusion, Excel charts are an essential tool for visually representing data and making it easier to interpret and analyze. As we have discussed, they offer a way to present complex information in a simple and understandable manner, allowing for better decision-making and communication. I encourage you to practice and explore the different chart options in Excel to become more proficient in creating impactful visual representations of your data. The more you familiarize yourself with the various chart types and their customization options, the better equipped you will be to effectively illustrate your data and convey your message.

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