Excel Tutorial: How To Plot Excel Data


When it comes to data analysis, visualization is key to understanding and interpreting the numbers. Excel is a powerful tool not only for organizing and analyzing data but also for creating visually appealing charts and graphs to represent that data. In this Excel tutorial, we will go through the step-by-step process of plotting data in Excel, showing you how to effectively showcase your data in a clear and understandable way.

Key Takeaways

  • Data visualization is crucial for understanding and interpreting data in Excel.
  • Excel offers a variety of charts and graphs to effectively showcase data.
  • Proper data organization and formatting are essential for effective plotting in Excel.
  • Choosing the right chart type and customizing it to fit specific needs is important for clear visualization.
  • Adding labels and titles to a chart enhances data visualization and understanding.

Understanding Excel Data

When it comes to plotting data in Excel, it is important to have a good understanding of the types of data that are suitable for plotting, as well as how to effectively organize and format the data for plotting purposes.

A. Types of data suitable for plotting in Excel
  • Continuous Data: This type of data consists of numerical values that can be measured and can take any value within a given range, such as time, distance, or temperature.
  • Discrete Data: Discrete data consists of distinct and separate values, such as the number of sales made each month or the number of students in a class.
  • Categorical Data: Categorical data consists of non-numeric values that represent categories, such as the type of car (sedan, SUV, truck) or the color of a product (red, blue, green).

B. Data organization and formatting for effective plotting
  • Data Organization: Before plotting data in Excel, it is important to organize the data in a logical and structured manner. This may involve arranging the data in columns and rows, and making sure that each column represents a different variable or category.
  • Data Formatting: In order to effectively plot data in Excel, it is crucial to format the data correctly. This may involve applying number formats, date formats, or custom formats to ensure that the data is displayed in the desired way.

Selecting the Right Chart Type

When it comes to plotting Excel data, selecting the right chart type is crucial to effectively visualizing and interpreting your data. Let's discuss the different types of charts available in Excel and the factors to consider when choosing a chart type.

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

    Used to compare values across categories.
  • Bar Charts:

    Similar to column charts but with the x and y-axis switched.
  • Line Charts:

    Useful for showing trends over time.
  • Pie Charts:

    Ideal for displaying proportions and percentages.
  • Scatter Plots:

    Shows the relationship between two sets of data.
  • Area Charts:

    Depicts changes in data over time or between categories.
  • And Many More:

    Excel offers a wide range of chart types to choose from, each serving a specific purpose.

B. Factors to consider when choosing a chart type
  • Data Relationships:

    Consider the relationships between your data points and choose a chart type that best represents those relationships.
  • Data Trends:

    If you want to show trends over time or between categories, consider using a line chart or an area chart.
  • Data Comparison:

    If you need to compare values across different categories, column charts or bar charts might be the best option.
  • Data Distribution:

    For displaying proportions and percentages, a pie chart can be a suitable choice.
  • Data Attributes:

    Take into account any specific attributes of your data that may steer you towards a certain chart type, such as outliers or distribution patterns.

Creating a Chart

A. Step-by-step guide to selecting data and inserting a chart

1. Select the range of data in your Excel spreadsheet that you want to include in the chart.

2. Once the data is selected, navigate to the "Insert" tab on the Excel ribbon.

3. Click on the "Charts" group, and then choose the type of chart you want to create. Common options include bar, line, pie, and scatter plots.

4. A blank chart will appear in your worksheet, and you can click and drag to resize and position it as needed.

B. Customizing the chart to fit specific needs

1. Double click on any element of the chart to open up the "Format" pane, where you can adjust the chart's appearance.

2. In the "Format" pane, you can change the chart type, add or remove chart elements (such as titles, data labels, and legends), and modify colors and styles.

3. Additionally, you can right-click on various elements of the chart to access specific formatting options, such as changing the axis scale or adding trendlines.

4. To further customize the chart, you can access the "Design" and "Format" tabs on the Excel ribbon, which provide additional options for chart styles, layouts, and formatting.

Adding and Formatting Data Series

When working with Excel charts, it is important to be able to add new data series to an existing chart and format the data for better visualization.

How to add new data series to an existing chart

Adding new data series to an existing chart in Excel is a simple process. To add a new data series, follow these steps:

  • Select the chart: Click on the chart to select it.
  • Go to the "Design" tab: Click on the "Design" tab in the Excel ribbon.
  • Select "Select Data": In the "Data" group, click on the "Select Data" button.
  • Add a new data series: In the "Select Data Source" dialog box, click on the "Add" button to add a new data series.
  • Specify the data range: In the "Edit Series" dialog box, specify the series name and the data range for the new series.
  • Click "OK": Once you have specified the data range, click "OK" to add the new data series to the chart.

Formatting options for enhancing data visualization

Excel offers a variety of formatting options to enhance the visualization of data series in a chart. Some of the formatting options include:

  • Changing the chart type: You can change the chart type to better represent the data series. For example, you can switch from a line chart to a bar chart for better visualization.
  • Adjusting colors and styles: Excel allows you to customize the colors and styles of data series to make them stand out and improve visual appeal.
  • Adding data labels: Data labels can be added to data series to provide additional information and context for the chart.
  • Adjusting axis scales: You can adjust the scales of the axes to better represent the data series and improve readability.
  • Adding trendlines: Trendlines can be added to data series to show the general pattern or direction of the data.

Adding Labels and Titles

When creating a chart in Excel, adding labels and titles is essential to ensure that the audience can understand and interpret the data accurately. The labels and titles provide context and clarity, making it easier for viewers to comprehend the information presented in the chart.

A. Importance of labels and titles in a chart

Labels and titles play a crucial role in a chart as they provide important information such as the units of measurement, the data series being represented, and the overall message the chart is conveying. Without proper labels and titles, the chart may be confusing and difficult to interpret.

B. How to add and format chart labels and titles
  • Add Chart Title

    To add a title to your chart in Excel, simply click on the chart to activate it, and then go to the "Chart Tools" tab and select "Layout." From there, you can click on "Chart Title" and choose where you want the title to appear.

  • Add Axis Titles

    To add axis titles, click on the chart and then go to the "Chart Tools" tab and select "Layout." Click on "Axis Titles" and choose the axis (X or Y) for which you want to add a title. You can then enter the title text and format it accordingly.

  • Add Data Labels

    To add data labels to your chart, click on the chart and then go to the "Chart Tools" tab and select "Layout." Click on "Data Labels" and choose where you want the data labels to appear (e.g., above the data points, below the data points, etc.). You can also format the data labels to display the desired information.

  • Format Labels and Titles

    Excel provides various formatting options for chart labels and titles, such as font style, size, color, and alignment. You can customize the appearance of the labels and titles to match the overall design of your chart and make it visually appealing.


In conclusion, mastering the art of plotting Excel data is essential for any professional who deals with data analysis and reporting. By following the key steps we've outlined, including selecting the data, choosing the right chart type, and customizing the chart to fit your needs, you can effectively represent your data in a visual format. This is crucial for effective data visualization, which in turn helps in making better decisions based on the insights gained from the plotted data.

Recap of key steps in plotting Excel data:

  • Select the data you want to plot.
  • Choose the appropriate chart type for your data.
  • Customize the chart to fit your needs and enhance its visual appeal.

Remember, the ability to effectively represent data through visual means is an invaluable skill, and mastering it can greatly enhance your ability to analyze and communicate important insights to others. So, keep practicing and experimenting with different chart types and features in Excel, and you'll soon become a pro at plotting Excel data.

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