Modifying Charts

Adding Chart Elements

When creating charts/graphs in Excel you may find that some labels are not added by default and must be added manually or are in an unsuitable place. Excel also allows for modification of these labels, as well as their placement. In this example i'm going to amend a pie chart. If you are not sure how to create a pie chart, you can find a guide on chart creation here.

First, to add any element to a chart we must click the 'add element' button, which is displayed as a '+' when the cursor is placed on top of the selected chart:  Illustrative image

Different chart types have different options for the chart elements, a pie chart for instance will contain options to add:

  • Chart title (found on all chart types)
  • Data labels (found on all chart types)
  • Legend (found on all chart types)

not found on pie charts, but used on other chart types:

  • Axes 
  • Axes titles
  • Data Table
  • Error bars
  • Gridlines
  • Trendline

You may tick the relevant fields to enable to the chart element on your graph:  Illustrative image

Chart Title

A chart title will add a small textbox to the top of your chart allowing you to name/label it. You can expand the checkbox to reveal locations for the chart title to be created at:  Illustrative image

Data Labels 

Data labels can be added to show a value or percentage to a chart that otherwise might be too difficult to read off the chart. A pie chart is a good example for this as you can't usually see an exact value or percentage when looking at portions of the pie. when you click the add element button and select 'data labels' and choose a location for them to be placed on the chart:  Illustrative image

By default, Excel will display values as they've been written in on your worksheet, if you wish to display percentages instead of the values then you will can click 'more options'. This will open a sidebar with all the options pertaining to the chart, not just data labels. Excel however, should take you to the correct area of the sidebar. If it has not however you can use the buttons at the top of the sidebar to access "label options" and the chart symbol: 

There should then be a list of label options which can be ticked or unticked as needed. Selecting multiple options will mean that both are displayed:  Illustrative image


A legend can be added to identify the different categories of data. This only has the option to add a legend and choose a location here however. If you wish to change the colour of a particular value/portion of the chart you can do this by left clicking to select the chart to select it, then left clicking main segment of the chart, then finally left clicking the individual segment you wish to recolour and then finally selecting a fill colour from the chart's formatting menu:  Illustrative image


Axes and Axe Titles

Axes are automatically applied to charts which would require them such as Line, bar, radar or box and whisker and more. However these can be modified to show the chart in a different scale. For example, if your data range is between 50-100, then you can set the chart to show between 40-110, instead of the default 0-100.

This can be achieved by selecting add element, then selected Axes and then 'more options' at which point the sidebar will open. In the sidebar you can then select the chart option and modify the Minimum and Maximum options, as well as how many units the axes increases by for each line, In the example here you can see it's set to 5 units for the X axis:  Illustrative image

you can also reverse the axes to be shown the opposite way around in this menu at the bottom by checking the "Values in reverse order" tick box.

Data Table

Sometimes data can be too large a scale to be able to accurately read off a value and therefore sometimes a data table is useful alongside the chat to make the data easily readable. To add a data table click the 'add element' button and select 'Data Table':  Illustrative image

Error Bars

Error bars are like whiskers from a Box and Whisker chart, but can be applied to any chart that may have variance in the data. It will default to standard error (standard error of mean) so if you wish to change this to a standard deviation, percentage, fixed amount or even custom values for each data point, we will need to access the 'more options' as we've done for the other attributes above:  Illustrative image



Gridlines are the lines that cross the chart's plot area, these are used to plot a value and read it off the axes found further to the side. These are editable and therefore can be changed to suit your graph. If this example if I have added minor gridlines so that a value can be more accurately read off of the chart:  Illustrative image


Trendlines are used to plot a 'line of best fit' to your chart, these are mostly used with a scatter plot chart or when there is no direct line between data points like there is with a line chart. By default Excel will create a linear line between your data points, but we can adjust this to be exponential, logarithmic, polynomial, power or a moving average in the 'more options':  Illustrative image

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