How to Create and Format a Pie Chart in Excel

Pie charts, or circle graphs as they are sometimes known, use pie slices to show the percentage or relative value of the data in the chart.

Since they show relative amounts, pie charts are useful for showing any data that displays the relative amounts of sub-categories against the total value – such as the production of one factory in relation to the output of the company as a whole, or the revenue generated by one product relative to the sales of the entire product line.

The circle of the pie chart equals 100%. Each slice of the pie is referred to as a category and its size shows what portion of the 100% it represents.

Unlike most other charts, pie charts contain only one data series, and this series cannot contain negative or zero (0) values.

01
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Show Percentage with a Pie Chart

How to Make a Pie Chart in Excel
© Ted French

This tutorial covers the steps needed to create and format the pie chart shown in the image above. The chart shows data related to the sale of cookies for 2013.

The chart displays both the total sales amount for each type of cookie using data labels as well as the relative value each slice represents of the total company sales for the year.

The chart also emphasizes lemon cookie sales by exploding that piece of the pie chart out from the others.

A Note on Excel's Theme Colors

Excel, like all of Microsoft Office programs, uses themes to set the look of its documents.

The theme used for this tutorial is the default Office theme.

If you use another theme while following this tutorial, the colors listed in the tutorial steps may not be available in the theme you are using. If not, just choose colors to your liking as substitutes and carry on. Learn how to check and change the current workbook theme.

02
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Starting the Pie Chart

Entering the Tutorial Data
Entering the Tutorial Data. © Ted French

Entering and Selecting the Tutorial Data

Entering the chart data is always the first step in creating a chart – no matter what type of chart is being created.

The second step is highlighting the data to be used in creating the chart.

  1. Enter the data shown in the image above into the correct worksheet cells.
  2. Once entered, highlight the range of cells from A3 to B6.

Creating the Basic Pie Chart

The steps below will create a basic pie chart – a plain, unformatted chart – that displays the four categories of data, a legend, and a default chart title.

Following that, some of the more common formatting features are used to alter the basic chart to match the one shown in page 1 of this tutorial.

  1. Click on the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. In the Charts box of the ribbon, click on the Insert Pie Chart icon to open the drop down list of available chart types.
  3. Hover your mouse pointer over a chart type to read a description of the chart.
  4. Click on 3-D Pie to select the three dimensional pie chart and add it to the worksheet.

Adding the Chart Title

Edit the default Chart Title by clicking on it twice but don't double click.

  1. Click once on the default chart title to select it – a box should appear around the words Chart Title.
  2. Click a second time to put Excel in edit mode, which places the cursor inside the title box.
  3. Delete the default text using the Delete/Backspace keys on the keyboard.
  4. Enter the chart title – The Cookie Shop 2013 Revenue from Sales – into the title box.
  5. Place the cursor between 2013 and Revenue in the title and press the Enter key on the keyboard to separate the title on to two lines.
03
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Adding Data Labels to the Pie Chart

Adding Data Labels to the Pie Chart
Adding Data Labels to the Pie Chart. © Ted French

There are many different parts to a chart in Excel – such as the plot area that contains the pie chart representing the selected data series, the legend, and the chart title and labels.

All of these parts are considered separate objects by the program, and, as such, each can be formatted separately. You tell Excel which part of the chart you want to format by clicking on it with the mouse pointer.

In the following steps, if your results do not resemble those listed in the tutorial, it is quite likely that you did not have the right part of the chart selected when you added the formatting option.

The most commonly made mistake is clicking on the plot area in the center of the chart when the intention is to select the entire chart.

The easiest way to select the entire chart is to click in the top left or right corner away from the chart title.

If a mistake is made, it can be quickly corrected using Excel's undo feature to undo the mistake. Following that, click on the right part of the chart and try again.

Adding the Data Labels

  1. Click once on the pie chart in the plot area to select it.
  2. Right-click on the chart to open the data series context menu.
  3. In the context menu, hover the mouse above the Add Data Labels option to open a second context menu.
  4. In the second context menu, click on Add Data Labels to add the sales values for each cookie – to each slice of pie in the chart.

Deleting the Chart Legend

In a future step, the category names will be added to the data labels along with the values currently displayed, therefore, the legend below the chart is not needed and can be deleted.

  1. Click once on the legend below the plot area to select it.
  2. Press the Delete key on the keyboard to remove the legend.

At this point, your chart should resemble the example shown in the image above.

04
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Changing Colors on the Format Tab

The Chart Tools Tabs on the Ribbon
The Chart Tools Tabs on the Ribbon. © Ted French

When a chart is created in Excel, or whenever an existing chart is selected by clicking on it, two additional tabs are added to the ribbon as shown in the image above.

These Chart Tools tabs – design and format – contain formatting and layout options specifically for charts, and they will be used in the following steps to format the pie chart.

Changing the Color of the Pie Slices

  1. Click on the chart background to select the entire chart.
  2. click on the Change Colors option located on the left-hand side of the Design tab of the ribbon to open a drop-down list of color choices.
  3. Hover your mouse pointer over each row of colors to see the option name.
  4. Click on the Color 5 option in the list – the first choice in the Monochromatic section of the list.
  5. The four slices of pie in the chart should change to varying shades of blue.

Changing the Chart's Background Color

For this particular step, formatting the background is a two-step process because a gradient is added to show slight changes in color vertically from top to bottom in the chart.

  1. Click on the background to select the entire chart.
  2. Click on the Format tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click on the Shape Fill option to open the Fill Colors drop down panel.
  4. Choose Blue, Accent 5, Darker 50% from the Theme Colors section of the panel to change the chart's background color to dark blue.
  5. Click on the Shape Fill option a second time to open the Colors drop-down panel.
  6. Hover the mouse pointer over the Gradient option near the bottom of the list to open the Gradient panel.
  7. In the Dark Variations section, click on the Linear Up option to add a gradient that gets progressively darker from bottom to top.

Changing the Text Color

Now that the background is dark blue, the default black text is barely visible. This next section changes the color of all text in the chart to white

  1. Click on the background to select the entire chart.
  2. Click on the Format tab of the ribbon if necessary.
  3. Click on the Text Fill option to open the Text Colors drop-down list.
  4. Choose White, Background 1 from the Theme Colors section of the list.
  5. All the text in the title and data labels should change to white.
05
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Adding Category Names and Rotating the Chart

Adding the Category Names and Location
Adding the Category Names and Location. © Ted French

The next few steps of the tutorial make use of the formatting task pane, which contains most of the formatting options available for charts.

In Excel 2013, when activated, the pane appears on the right-hand side of the Excel screen as shown in the image above. The heading and options appearing in the pane change depending upon the area of the chart that is selected.

Adding Category Names and Moving the Data Labels

This step will add the name of each type of cookie to the data labels along with the value hat is currently displayed. It will also ensure that the data labels are displayed inside the chart so there will be no need to display leader lines linking the label to its respective slice of the pie chart.

  1. Click once on one of the data labels in the chart – all four data labels in the chart should be selected.
  2. Click on the Format tab of the ribbon if necessary.
  3. Click on the Format Selection option on the left side of the ribbon to open the Formatting Task pane on the right side of the screen.
  4. If necessary, click on the Options icon in the pane to open the label options as shown in the image above.
  5. Under the Label Contains section of the list, add a check mark to the Category Name option to display the cookie names as well as their sales amounts, and remove the check mark from the Show Leader Lines option.
  6. Under the Label Position section of the list, click on the Inside end to move all four data labels to the outer edge of their respective sections of the chart.

Rotating the Pie Chart on its X and Y Axes

The last formatting step will be to drag or explode the lemon slice out from the rest of the pie to add emphasis to it. Currently, it is located beneath the chart title, and dragging it out while in this location will have it bumping into the title.

Rotating the chart on the X axis – spinning the chart around so the lemon slice is pointing down toward the bottom right corner of the chart – will provide plenty of space for exploding it out from the rest of the chart.

Rotating the chart on the Y axis will pull the face of the chart down so that it is easier to read the data labels on the pie slices at the top of the chart.

With the Formatting Task pane open:

  1. Click once on the chart background to select the entire chart.
  2. Click on the Effects icon in the pane to open the list of effect options.
  3. Click on 3-D Rotation in the list to view the available options.
  4. Set the X Rotation to 170o to spin the chart so that the lemon slice is facing the bottom right corner of the chart.
  5. Set the Y Rotation to 40o to pull the face of the chart down.
06
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Changing Fonts Type and Exploding a Piece of the Chart

Manually Exploding a Piece of the Pie Chart
Manually Exploding a Piece of the Pie Chart. © Ted French

Changing the size and type of font used in the chart, will not only be an improvement over the default font used in the chart, but it will also make it easier to read the category names and data values in the chart.

Note: The size of a font is measured in points –often shortened to pt.
72 pt text is equal to one inch – 2.5 cm – in size.

  1. Click once on the chart's title to select it.
  2. Click on the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the font section of the ribbon, click on the Font box to open the drop-down list of available fonts.
  4. Scroll to find and click on the font Britannic Bold in the list to change the title to this font.
  5. In the Font Size box next to the font box, set the title font size to 18 pt.
  6. Click once on the data labels in the chart to select all four labels.
  7. Using the steps above, set the data labels to 12 pt Britannic Bold.

Exploding a Piece of the Pie Chart

This last formatting step is to drag or explode the lemon slice out from the rest of the pie to add emphasis to it.

After exploding out the Lemon slice, the rest of the pie chart will shrink in size to accommodate the change. As a result, it may be necessary to reposition one or more of the data labels to place them fully inside their respective sections.

  1. Click once on the pie chart in the plot area to select it.
  2. Click once on the Lemon slice of the pie chart to select just that section of the chart – make sure that only the lemon slice is surrounded by the small blue highlight dots.
  3. Click and drag the Lemon slice out from the pie chart to explode it.
  4. To reposition a data label, click once on the data label – all data labels should be selected.
  5. Click a second time on the data label to be moved and drag it to the desired location.

At this point, if you have followed all the steps in this tutorial, your chart should match the example displayed on page 1 of the tutorial.

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