TL;DR: Creating charts and graphs in spreadsheets is a powerful way to convey complex information in an easily digestible format. By choosing the right chart type, creating and customizing your chart, and sharing your visualizations, you can effectively communicate your insights and make more compelling arguments. As you develop your data visualization skills, you'll discover even more ways to present your data in an engaging and informative manner.

Data visualization is a powerful technique for presenting complex information in an easily digestible format, helping you convey your insights and make more compelling arguments. Spreadsheets offer a variety of built-in tools for creating charts and graphs that can transform your raw data into visually appealing and informative graphics. In this beginner's guide, we'll cover the basics of data visualization in spreadsheets, including selecting the right chart type, creating and customizing your charts, and sharing your visualizations with others.

Choosing the Right Chart Type

Before you start creating a chart, it's important to choose the appropriate type that best represents your data and the insights you want to convey. Here are some common chart types and their typical use cases:

  1. Column and Bar Charts: These charts are ideal for comparing data across categories, such as sales figures by product or region. Column charts display data as vertical bars, while bar charts use horizontal bars.

  2. Line Charts: Line charts are useful for visualizing trends over time or continuous data, such as stock prices or temperature readings. Data points are connected by a line, making it easy to see patterns and trends.

  3. Pie Charts: Pie charts are effective for showing the proportion of each category within a whole, such as the market share of different companies in an industry. Each segment of the pie represents a category, and the size of the segment corresponds to its proportion of the total.

  4. Scatter Plots: Scatter plots are used to explore the relationship between two numerical variables, such as the correlation between age and income. Data points are plotted on a Cartesian plane, with each axis representing one of the variables.

  5. Area Charts: Similar to line charts, area charts are useful for displaying trends over time. However, in area charts, the space between the line and the horizontal axis is filled with color, making it easier to visualize the magnitude of changes over time.

Creating a Chart in Your Spreadsheet

Once you've selected the appropriate chart type, follow these steps to create your chart in a spreadsheet:

  1. Select the data you want to include in your chart, including the headers if applicable.

  2. Navigate to the "Insert" tab in your spreadsheet software, and click on the desired chart type. A drop-down menu will appear with various subtypes for you to choose from.

  3. Select the desired subtype, and the chart will be inserted into your spreadsheet with your selected data.

Customizing Your Chart

After creating your chart, you may want to customize its appearance and settings to better convey your message or match your presentation's style. Here are some common customization options:

  1. Chart title: To add or edit the chart title, click on the chart to select it, and then click on the "Chart Title" placeholder. Type in your desired title, and adjust the font, size, and color as needed.

  2. Axis labels: To add or edit axis labels, click on the chart to select it, and then click on the "Axis Titles" placeholder. Type in your desired labels for the horizontal and vertical axes, and adjust the font, size, and color as needed.

  3. Data series: To modify the appearance of a data series, such as changing its color or line style, right-click on the series within the chart and select "Format Data Series." A new pane will appear with various formatting options for you to choose from.

  4. Legend: To edit the legend, click on the chart to select it, and then click on the "Legend" placeholder. You can adjust the position of the legend, as well as the font, size, and color of the text.

Sharing and Exporting Your Visualizations

Once you've created and customized your charts, you may want to share your visualizations with others or include them in reports and presentations. Here are some tips for sharing and exporting your charts:

  1. Copy and paste: To include your chart in another document, such as a Word document or PowerPoint presentation, simply click on the chart to select it, then copy and paste it into the target document. The chart will maintain its formatting and appearance.

  2. Export as an image: If you need to save your chart as an image file, right-click on the chart and select "Save as Picture." Choose the desired image format, such as PNG or JPEG, and specify the location where you want to save the file.

  3. Publish online: Some spreadsheet software, such as Google Sheets, allows you to publish your charts online, making it easy to share your visualizations with a wider audience. To publish your chart, click on the "File" menu, then select "Publish to the web." Choose the desired publishing options, such as whether to publish the entire spreadsheet or just the chart, and click "Publish."

  4. Embed in a web page: If you want to include your chart on a web page, you can use the "embed" code provided by your spreadsheet software. Click on the chart to select it, then navigate to the "File" menu and select "Publish to the web" or "Embed" (depending on your software). Copy the generated embed code and paste it into the HTML of your web page.


Data visualization is an essential skill for effectively communicating your insights and analysis. By learning how to create and customize charts and graphs in spreadsheets, you can transform your raw data into engaging and informative visualizations. As you become more comfortable with these techniques, you can explore more advanced chart types and features to further enhance your data storytelling capabilities.

More in Tips and Tricks

Use of this website is under the conditions of the Spreadsheet Basics Terms of Service.

All rights reserved. Contact us to discuss content use.

Text and images Copyright © Spreadsheet Basics.

Privacy is important and our policy is detailed in our Privacy Policy.

See the Cookie Information and Policy for our use of cookies and the user options available.