Excel is a powerful tool that you can use to create charts and graphs for small or large amounts of data. In this Excel tutorial, I’ll show you how to take a small dataset and create a simple bar chart, along with the options you need to customize the chart. Once you have mastered the basics, you can use the same techniques for large datasets.
First of all, for our example, I created a test dataset of students. Eight students received their results on four exams. To turn this into a chart, you first want to select the entire data range, including the titles (Test 1, etc.).
Now that your data is selected as shown above, go ahead and click on the Insert tab in the ribbon interface. To the right, you will see the “Charts” section, as shown below.
By default, it tries to list the most common chart types such as Column, Line, Pie, Column, Area, and Scatter. If you need a different type of chart, just click “More Charts”. In our example, we will try to use a bar chart to visualize data. Click the column and select the type of chart you want. There are many options! Also, don’t worry, because if you choose a chart that you don’t like, you can easily switch to a different chart type with just one click.
So now Excel will create a chart from the data and save it somewhere in your worksheet. This is it! You have created your first graph / chart in Excel and it will take literally a few minutes. It’s easy to create a chart, but what you can do with the chart after you’ve created it makes Excel such a great tool.
In the example above, I see each person on the X-axis and test scores on the Y-axis. Each student has four columns for their respective test scores. That’s great, but what if I want to visualize the data differently? Well, by default, after adding a chart, you will see a new section at the top of the ribbon called Chart Tools with three tabs: Design, Layout, and Format. This is where you can change everything under the sun when it comes to your new schedule.
One useful thing you can do is click on Toggle Row / Column in the Data section, and the chart will instantly change when you switch data. Now this is what the chart looks like with the same data but switching X and Y
This chart is also useful because I can now see the marks of all students for the exam. When the data is displayed this way, it is very easy to determine who performed best and who was worst in each test. Now let’s make our chart a little better by adding some headings, etc. An easy way to do this is to click the little down arrow above it in the Chart Layouts section. Here you will see several different ways to change the layout.
If you choose the one shown above, your chart will now look like this, with additional axis titles added for you. Feel free to choose other layouts to see how the diagram changes. You can always change the layout without messing up the graph.
Now just double-click the text boxes and you can give the X and Y axes a title and also give a title to the chart. Then, go to the Layout tab in the Chart Tools section. This is a very important tab because here you can customize almost every little detail in your diagram. What I like best is the right side of the left side of the ribbon called Current Selection.
From the drop-down list, you can select any specific portion of the chart and then click Select Format to change the settings for that portion only. Here you can see all the different sections you can choose:
Suppose I clicked on the horizontal (category) axis and then clicked on a format selection. I will get a dialog box in which I can configure any properties of this object. In this case, I can add shadows, rotate text, add background color, etc.
Moving down the ribbon, while still in the Layout section, you will see many more options under the Labels, Axes, and Background sections. Click on them and try them to see what effect they have on the graph. You can actually customize your chart with these options. Most of the options here basically allow you to move objects to different places on the chart.
Finally, the Format tab in the Chart Tools section will allow you to customize the formatting of each part of the chart. Again, you can use the Current Selection tool on the left and then change border styles, font styles, object placement, etc.
For fun, I added a reflection effect to all the text in the diagram and gave the entire diagram a 3D effect going from back to front, not just flat.
In Excel, you can create much more complex charts than the one I showed here, but this tutorial was just to get you wet and understand the basics of chart creation. If you have any questions about the tutorial or have your own schedule, please leave a comment. Enjoy!