Excel Chart Elements

Basic Description

In this article, I will show you what are the different objects or elements related to charts, and how to access chart elements and change the chart properties. Elements are nothing but the chart properties and there are many chart elements in excel to customize the charts to suit our data which is described below:

1. Chart Area
2. Plot Area
3. Chart Titles
4. Chart Axis Titles
5. Legends
6. Chart Axes
8. Data Labels
9. Gridlines

For describing charts element I consider below data and chart:

chart element

1. Excel Chart : Chart Area

chart area1

Chart area in Excel Charts is the largest element (portion) of the Chart. We can format the Chart Area and change its border and background colors to make the charts looks more cleaner. Legends, Chart Titles and Plot Areas are the three major child elements of Chart Area. Generally we do not change the background color of the charts to make it look more professional. Charts looks more cleaner with white or default background color. However, we can change the background color to suite with the other parts of the excel sheets to make it consistent. Now you find below option in the right hand side of the window:

chart area option1 chart area option2

You can change any option related to chart area from this option area. For an example, you need to change the background color. Just change the color by clicking fill option and choose required color. I made some change for better understanding which looks like:

char area example


2. Excel Charts : Plot Area

Plot Area is the second largest element (portion) in Excel Charts. It covers the actual chart data area. We can access the Plot Area and Format it to suit or needs. It is same as Chart Area, if your project need different background color then we change it. Otherwise default background color (white) looks more cleaner. Right click on the plot area section and select format plot are for customizing as below images.I format only the background of Plot Area as white as looks below:

Excel Plot Area 4


Excel Charts – Chart Titles

We can provide the title in Excel Chart. There are three different chart titles we can provide in Excel charts, One Chart Title and Two Axis Titles. Chart title is the main title of the chart, which is generally represents your chart and tell users what is this chart all about. Here is the Example Chart Tile we provided for the above Data. It is important to tell your user, What is this chart all about. So we generally provide the Chart titles, except some specific cases. I change my chart title from “chart title” to “Subject Wise Student Marks”.

chart title


Excel Charts – Chart Axis Titles

There are two Axis Titles which we can provide in Excel Charts. X-Axis title, which is for horizontal axis. and the second one is Y-Axis Titles, which is for Vertical Axis. We should provide the chart Axes titles to make your users to understand the data and chart in better way. Most of the time, axis titles are shorter. However, some time we may need to provide longer titles to make it more clear. Most of the times x-axis will have all your categories, so your x-axis title would be your category column name. And y-axis is your metric field, here you can mention the units in thousands, millions,etc.

axis title


Excel Charts – Legends

When we have the data for more than one item, we need to distinguish between the data. We can take the advantage of the Chart Legend to show the difference between two categories. Here is the example data and Chart with legends to understand the use of Chart Legends. Here we are showing the Overall satisfaction with Blue series and Quality in Orange Color. And Legends will help you to understand by providing the color definitions for each category of the data. You can align the legends at any side of the Chart Area. If you have more number of category series, we generally place at right side of the chart plot area. Other wise we can place at top or bottom of the plot area to save the place.



Excel Charts – Axises

Excel Charts – X-Axis

X-Axis in Excel Charts is the Horizontal Axis element in the chart. We generally plot the categories of our data on X-Axis. We can format x-axis as per our requirement. Make sure when we have longer category labels, we need to format chart axis to correctly fit the axis label into the chart

Excel Charts – Y-Axis

Y-Axis in Excel Charts is the Vertical Axis element in the chart. It generally show the data range on Y-Axis. We can format x-axis as per our requirement. If we have two different types of data metrics, we can provide two y-axes, one is primary axis and the another one is secondary axis. Some times we may have large numbers in our data, in this case our chart looks more confusing. We can change the units to thousand, millions, etc. to make the charts more cleaner.


Excel Charts – Data Labels

Data labels includes data values, category name, series name, legend keys and values form cells. We can choose all of these elements or any few as per our requirement. Data labels looks good when we have one or two data series. If you have more number of series, your chart looks confusing with overlapping data labels. Avoid data labels when you have more number of data series or consider changing the units into thousand, millions,etc.

data level


Excel Charts – Gridlines

Gridlines helps to quickly understand the values or percentage of the data without looking the exact values. we can understand the approximate value of the data by looking at the data series with gridlines. Again gridlines are sometime useful.You can delete the gridlines if they are not necessary to make your chart more cleaner.

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