A bar graph, or bar chart, is one of the simplest and best ways to present data. Its clear nature has made it a staple and as a result it's essential that anybody who processes data knows how to make a bar graph in Excel.
How to graph in Excel
Thankfully, Microsoft makes this quite simple. Excel's dedicated graphing tools allow you to quickly switch between a variety of chart types and customize them once you've chosen.
Before we continue with this guide, however, it's important to consider whether a bar graph is the best choice for your data. Bar charts are best used when you can make direct comparisons between your data. For example, you have a list of countries and their life expectancies. Once your data gets more complex, or you want to show things like trends or distribution, scatter, line, bubble, and pie graphs are usually better.
That said, if you know what you need, below we have a guide to show you how to create a bar chart in Excel and customize it to your liking:
How to Make a Bar Graph in Excel
Before we start, you'll naturally need your data. It's best if this data is in two labeled columns – these will represent your X and Y-axis. If you don't have any data, you can quickly copy ours from below. Once everything is ready, follow along below:
- Select your data by clicking and dragging
- Open the “Insert” tab in the ribbon and insert a bar chart type
Click the bar icon in your ribbon to do so, then choose between one of the 2D or 3D bar types. We'll be using the flat 2D column chart, which should be the first option.
- View your automatically created Excel bar chart
Excel should automatically populate your bar chart with the right data. In our case, the countries have been placed along the bottom, and the life expectancy on the side. If it's not exactly how you'd like, read on.
How to Format Your Excel Bar Graph
Once you've created a bar graph in Excel, you have several options for formatting it. You can change titles, axis labels, data labels, styling, color, fonts, and more. Here's how:
- Double-click your heading to change its text
You can simply type as you would any text box to better describe your graph.
- Turn off the Excel bar chart title
If you're looking for a cleaner graph, you can instead hide the title and other elements. To do so, click on your graph, then press the “+” icon on its right-hand side and untick/tick what you need.
- How to enable/disable Axis titles
To enable/disable Axis titles, you follow a similar process to above. Click on your Excel bar graph, press the “+” button on the right-hand edge of it, and tick or untick “Axis Titles”.
- Edit your Excel bar chart's Axis titles
Editing an axis title follows the same process as the regular title. Simply double-click it and type your new name.
- How to change Excel bar chart style
To format an Excel graph with a different color, click on its box, then press the paintbrush icon on the right-hand side and choose from an option in the “Style” tab.
- Or: Change your bar chart style is the “Chart Design” tab in your ribbon
You'll see a small gallery of the same styles next to the “Change Colors” button. Clicking on any of them will immediately apply them to your graph.
- How to change bar graph color in Excel
If you don't like the default blue coloring you can click on your graph, then press the paintbrush icon on its right edge. Switch to the “Color” tab in the flyout menu and choose from one of the Monochromatic options.
- How to format Excel graph area
To access even more graph formatting options, you can right-click the bar graph and select “Format Chart Area…” from the list.
- Change the fill, border, and formatting options in the “Chart Options” tab
- Click on the “Text Options” tab and change how your text is displayed
You can adjust factors such as fill, color, transparency, and outline.
- Change your Excel bar graph font and size via the ribbon
If you'd like to modify your text further, you can click on a label or title, then open the “Home” row of your ribbon adjust the font options there.
- Or: Use the pop-up formatting menu
Alternatively, you can select the text with your cursor to bring up the in-line formatting menu. Here you can adjust the same options.
Extra: How to Find Duplicates in Excel and Remove Them
You now know how to make a bar graph in Excel, but what if you have duplicates in the data itself? Our guide will show you how to remove duplicates from your data so they don't show in your graph.
Extra: How to Customize the Ribbon in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook
If you're planning to do a lot of graphing in Excel, you may also want to read our guide on how to customize the Excel ribbon. You can use this to place all the tools you need directly at your fingertips.