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Master Excel: How to Make a Pivot Chart Like a Pro

Making Pivot Charts in MS Excel

Pivot charts are invaluable for people who frequently navigate complex datasets. At their core, pivot charts present a graphical representation of the data within a Microsoft Excel pivot table. These charts visually summarize significant data volumes through quick statistics and straightforward graphs.

Pivot charts captivate with their dynamism. These charts include interactive features that let users manipulate results, refresh layouts, swap data points, and generate new insights with instant visual updates. Each pivot chart maintains a direct connection to its corresponding pivot table, ensuring synchronous changes between the two.

Pivot charts exist primarily to simplify data analysis while infusing it with insight. These charts can reveal hidden patterns, spotlight trends, and accentuate critical areas, enhancing business decision-making.

The charts transform the analysis and summary of data from a formidable task into an insightful, straightforward process. Their advantages range greatly, from presenting data simply to scrutinizing complex data tendencies in-depth.

Preparing Your Data in MS Excel

To create a chart in Excel, including a Pivot Chart, your data must be clean, well-structured, and organized into a list format. This means organizing it into identifiable rows and columns with clear headers for each column.

Importance of Clean and Well-Structured Data

Excel’s Pivot Chart visualizes complex data effectively only with a clean, well-organized dataset. Messy data, missing values, or improper formatting can lead to inaccurate, misleading, or non-existent pivot charts.

An organized dataset clearly depicts relationships between different variables and aids in deriving meaningful insights.

Tips on Data Organization and Formatting for Optimal Results

  • Headers: Always describe each column with headers. It helps Excel comprehend your data and lets you select accurate fields while building your pivot chart.
  • No Blank Rows or Columns: Eliminate blank rows or columns; they can confuse Excel when creating your pivot chart.
  • Data Consistency: Ensure consistent data in each column. If a column is for dates, every cell should contain a date.
  • Data Type: Check that numerical data and dates are in their respective formats. Excel might misinterpret wrongly formatted data.
  • Correct Spelling: Ensure consistent spelling. Discrepancies can generate different categories for the same element.

Creating a Pivot Table

Follow these general steps to create a pivot table:

Step 1: Prepare Data

Organize data into columns with headers, remove blanks, and ensure consistent formatting.

Step 2: Select Data

Click a cell within your data range for Excel to auto-select during pivot table creation.

Step 3: Insert Pivot Table

Under the “Insert” tab, click “PivotTable” in the Tables group, opening the “Create PivotTable” dialogue box.

Step 4: Choose Data Source

Select “Select a table or range” and verify or input the data range.

Step 5: Select Pivot Table Location

Choose “New Worksheet” or “Existing Worksheet” for placement.

Step 6: Create Pivot Table

Click “OK” to generate a blank pivot table.

Step 7: Customize Pivot Table

Drag and drop column headers from the “PivotTable Fields” pane into “Rows,” “Columns,” “Values,” or “Filters” for desired views and summaries.

Pivot Tables as the Foundation for Pivot Charts

Pivot tables are tools for data manipulation, analysis, and interpretation. They offer a dynamic workspace for summarizing data through statistical methods. Quickly, users can alter their data view in these tables, hence ‘pivot.’ They also allow users to evaluate complex data trends by grouping elements and defining numerical ranges.

Pivot charts provide a visual representation of the data from a pivot table. Existing in a bi-directional relationship with the pivot table in software like Excel, changes in the table directly affect its corresponding chart and vice versa. This feature enables a switch between numerical and visual data analysis for a comprehensive data understanding.

Designing Pivot Charts in Excel

In Excel, Pivot Charts offer multiple chart types to enhance data visualization. Let’s explore the diverse chart types available for Pivot Charts.

Bar and Column Charts

Ideal for comparing individual data points across categories, these charts display data using horizontal bars (bar charts) or vertical columns (column charts), where the length of each bar or column represents the data value’s magnitude.

Line Charts

Line charts, suited for displaying trends over time or continuous data sets, connect data points with lines for easy spotting of increases, decreases, or fluctuations.

Pie Charts

Pie charts are perfect for showcasing how each part represents data as slices of a pie, with the size of each slice corresponding to the proportion of data.

Area Charts

Like line charts, area charts depict trends over time, emphasizing the magnitude of changes by displaying the area between the line and axis.

Scatter Charts

This chart type helps show relationships between two numeric variables, revealing potential correlations or trends.

Combination Charts

These charts combine two or more chart types into one. This allows you to display different data sets or emphasize specific aspects of the data.

Creating and Customizing a Pivot Chart

Insert a Pivot Chart

  1. Open the Excel workbook containing your Pivot Table.
  2. Click on any cell within the Pivot Table.
  3. Select the Insert tab from the Ribbon.
  4. In the Charts group, click on the PivotChart icon.
  5. Choose your desired chart type from the Insert Chart dialog box, then click OK.

Customize the Pivot Chart

  • Modify Chart Type: Right-click the chart, select Change Chart Type, and choose the desired chart type.
  • Hide/Show Field Buttons: Right-click the chart and select Hide Field Buttons or Show Field Buttons.
  • Add/Remove Field: Use the Field List on the right side of the worksheet or the chart’s field buttons. Drag and drop fields to the Axis, Legend, and Values areas.

Chart Elements, Titles, and Formatting

  • Add Chart Elements: Click on the + button next to the chart or use the Add Chart Element dropdown from the Chart Design tab to add elements such as axis titles, chart titles, data labels, gridlines, and legends.
  • Insert Titles: Adding a chart title or axis titles helps explain the data in your Pivot Chart. Use the Add Chart Elements option or double-click the text field of the title you want to edit.
  • Formatting: Use the Home tab to apply formatting options like font, size, and color. You can also format chart elements individually by clicking on them and modifying the options in the right-click context menu or the Format tab under Chart Tools.

Using Pivot Chart Filters and Slicers in Excel

You can significantly enhance the capabilities of Pivot Charts in Excel by filtering and slicing. These tools allow you to interactively control the data displayed on your chart, making it a handy tool for data analysis.

How Filters Work Filters in Pivot Charts enable you to show or hide specific values or ranges, providing a straightforward method to view chart data more selectively.

How Slicers Work Slicers in Excel act as visual filters. They offer a user-friendly interface to filter data interactively, similar to standard filters.

Procedures to Add and Use Filters and Slicers To Add a Filter in the Pivot Chart

  1. Click on the Pivot Chart in Excel.
  2. Go to the Analyze tab in the Excel ribbon.
  3. Select Field List.
  4. Check the box next to the field you want to add to the filters area.

To Use the Filter in the Pivot Chart

  1. Click the dropdown arrow in the filter you added.
  2. Choose the specific data you want to show on your chart.

To Add a Slicer in the Pivot Chart

  1. Click on the Pivot Chart.
  2. Go to the Analyze tab in the Excel ribbon.
  3. Click on the Insert Slicer button.
  4. Check the boxes for the item(s) you want to create slicers for.

To Use the Slicer in the Pivot Chart

  1. Click on the Slicer(s) you added.
  2. Select the checkboxes for the specific data you want to show in your chart.

Updating a Pivot Chart in Excel

A pivot chart in Excel actively visualizes complex data by summarizing and presenting it in a concise, easy-to-understand format. Like its counterpart, the pivot table, the chart dynamically reacts to underlying data changes. Consequently, maintaining the currency of your pivot charts is critical for accurate data analysis and decision-making.

Importance of Updating Pivot Charts

  • Data Accuracy: Ensuring that your pivot charts reflect the most recent and accurate data is essential for making informed decisions based on analysis.
  • Data Consistency: Updating pivot charts prevents discrepancies between other reports and analyses that may use the same data source.
  • Save Time: Updated pivot charts save time and effort otherwise spent on manual data updates or re-creation of the entire chart.

How to Refresh Pivot Charts When data changes, follow these simple steps to refresh your pivot charts:

Step 1: Select the Pivot Chart

  • Click on any part of the pivot chart to activate the PivotChart Tools in the Excel ribbon. If your pivot chart is linked to a pivot table, you can select either one for the following steps.

Step 2: Refresh Data. There are two ways you can refresh your pivot chart:

  • Using the Ribbon: Navigate to the “PivotChart (or PivotTable) Analyze” tab in Excel. Click “Refresh” or “Refresh All” to update every pivot chart and table.
  • Using a Shortcut Key: Press Alt+F5 to refresh a selected pivot chart or table.

Step 3: Check for Updates. After refreshing, ensure that your pivot chart (or table) reflects the updated data.

Best Practices and Tips

To create a compelling and informative pivot chart, consider the following.

Data Preparation

  • Clean and properly categorized data is crucial. Make sure there is no empty cell in your data range.

Appropriate Chart Type

  • Excel provides various chart types, such as column, line, bar, and pie, among others. Choose the appropriate chart type that effectively displays your data based on the message you want to convey.

Keep It Simple

  • A visually overwhelming chart can confuse your audience. Avoid using excessive colors, providing too much detail, or over-formatting charts.

Provide Context

  • Always provide a title, label axes, provide a legend, and include relevant notes to help your audience understand the chart.

Use Filters

  • Filters allow you to display subsets of your data, which makes it easier to focus on specific parts of your data.

Refresh Your Data

  • After making changes in your dataset, you must refresh your Pivot Chart to reflect the changes.

Some common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Do Not Overload Data: Trying to fit too much data into a single chart can make it difficult to interpret.
  • Avoid 3D Chart Types: 3D chart types often distort the data, making it difficult to read.
  • Avoid complex calculations: Excel allows for complex data manipulations, but these might slow down your workbook. If it’s not necessary, avoid overly complex calculations.
  • Be careful when hiding data: If you hide rows/columns in your raw data, Excel may fail to include that data in your Pivot Chart. Always check to ensure you’re including all relevant data.


To create a Pivot Chart in Excel, follow several key steps. First, select your data. Then, head to the “Insert” tab and choose the Pivot Chart. Define your data field and decide where to position the Pivot Chart. This allows Excel to construct your Pivot Table. Then, by adding fields to the row and column areas, and inserting your values into the values area, you can customize your chart.

After setting up your Pivot Table will automatically create a blank Pivot Chart on your worksheet. You can then personalize your chart by adding chart elements and applying an appropriate style.

These tools enhance your datasets’ usefulness and improve your data analysis skills. Use these techniques confidently in your projects for better data visualization!

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