How to Create a Scatter Plot in Excel

Excel makes visualizing data easy

Zoomed in photo shows Excel with Data in column A and B, and Insert > Scatter (X,Y) Chart menu icon selected
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In Excel, a scatter chart displays data points positioned at coordinates located on an x-axis and y-axis. Scatter charts are sometimes also called X and Y charts, scatter plots, scatter diagrams, or scatter graphs. All of these names refer to charts that visualize data with Cartesian (x,y) coordinates.

As Excel’s tip indicators suggest, a scatter chart helps you compare pairs of values. The pattern created by plotted points can help people understand the relationship between two variables. For example, a scatter plot might display the mileage of a car on one axis and the cost of annual maintenance on another, or depict data sets that include height on one axis and weight on another.

In some cases, it can be helpful to have Excel calculate and display a line based on the point locations. A straight line indicates a linear relationship between two variables, while a curved line, such as an exponential or parabolic curve, indicates a more complex relationship between two variables. However, if two numbers are only randomly related, a line will not help people understand the data.

While the images below show Excel for Office 365, the following variance functions work in Excel 2019, Excel 2016, and Excel 2010 on Windows; Excel 2016 and Excel 2011 on macOS; and Microsoft Excel on Android and iOS as well as Office 365.

How to Create a Scatter Chart in Excel on Windows or macOS

To create a scatter plot in Excel on laptop or desktop systems, follow these steps.

  1. Check your data set to make sure you have at least two columns (or rows) of data. Ideally, the first cell in each sequence will contain a text entry that describes the numbers that follow, such as “Mileage of Car” or “Annual Maintenance Expense”.

  2. With your mouse or cursor, click the cell in the upper left of the data you want to chart, then drag the cursor to the lower right cell of the data set to select it.

  3. Select the Insert tab.

  4. Select the Scatter (X, Y) or Bubble Chart icon.

    Screenshot shows Data columns selected, cursor over Insert > Insert Scatter (X,Y) or Bubble Chart icon.
  5. Select More Scatter Charts… at the bottom of the menu.

    Screenshot of Scatter plot icon selected, cursor over More Scatter Charts... menu item.
  6. Select the Scatter chart option you prefer. For example, Excel for Office 365 shows five different scatter chart options: Scatter (which shows data points), Scatter with smooth lines and markers (which also shows data points), Scatter with smooth lines (which hides data points), Scatter with straight lines and markers (which shows data points), and Scatter with straight lines (which hides data points).

  7. Next, select whether you want to compare the two columns of data, or use the two columns as x- and y-axis indicators, respectively. Select the chart style, then choose OK.

  8. Excel should now have inserted a chart into your spreadsheet that displays your data. If your chart title, axis labels, and other chart elements meet your needs, you may stop at this point. However, in most cases, you’ll need to adjust one or more chart elements.

  9. Click (or tap) on blank space in the chart to select the chart.

  10. Next, adjust chart element display options. Select the + key next to the chart to choose which chart elements display. Next to each element, if you select the checkbox, the item will display. Deselect the checkbox to hide an element.

    Screenshot with default Scatter Plot inserted. Note the +, paintbrush, and filter icons shown to the right of the selected chart.

    The chart elements may include Axes, Axis Titles, Chart Title, Data Labels, Error Bars, Gridlines, Legend, and Trendline. Select to the right of an element name to see a triangle that allows access to additional element options. For example, next to Gridlines, you may enable Primary Major Horizontal, Primary Major Vertical, Primary Minor Horizontal, Primary Minor Vertical, or More Options.

    In almost every case, you should enable Axes, Axis Titles, Chart Title, and Gridlines.

  11. If desired, with the chart selected, choose the paintbrush icon to adjust appearance. You can choose from several different chart styles, as well as select a pre-configured color palette.

  12. Double-click (or tap) on a chart element to edit it. On many elements, you may modify text and text appearance settings.

  13. When complete, click (or tap) once on the chart to select it. Once selected, you may move the chart anywhere on the current sheet. You can resize the chart by selecting and moving any of the chart corners. You may also use Ctrl-C to copy the chart, then Ctrl-V to paste the chart elsewhere in your Excel spreadsheet.

See Microsoft’s guide to creating all sorts of charts within Microsoft Office on Windows or mcOS, see “Create a chart from start to finish”.

How to Create a Scatter Chart in Excel on Android or iOS

To create a scatter plot in Excel on Android or iOS devices, you’ll need to install the Microsoft Excel app on your phone (Install Microsoft Excel on Android or Microsoft Excel for iOS.)

  1. As on desktop devices, check your data set to make sure you have at least two columns (or rows) of data. Ideally, the first cell in each sequence will contain a text entry that describes the numbers that follow, such as “Mileage of Car” or “Annual Maintenance Expense”.

  2. Tap the cell in the upper left of the data you want to chart, then drag the cursor to the lower right cell of the data set to select it.

  3. On larger devices, such as a tablet, tap Insert > Charts > X Y (Scatter).

    On smaller devices, such as a phone, tap the sub-menu item in the lower portion of the screen (it looks like an up-pointing arrow), then tap the word Home, then tap Insert. Scroll through the menu options, then tap Chart. Scroll through those menu items and tap X Y (Scatter).

    Excel on Android screenshots show: Insert menu, Chart, XY (Scatter) menu option sequence
  4. Select the Scatter chart option you prefer.

    Excel on Android scatter chart type (left) and Chart details (right)
  5. Excel should now have inserted a chart into your spreadsheet that displays your data. If your chart title, axis labels, and other chart elements meet your needs, you may stop at this point.

To adjust individual chart elements on a mobile device, you’ll need to sign in to Microsoft Excel on Android or iOS with an Office 365 subscription. Once you do, you’ll be able to adjust chart elements with the following steps:

  1. Tap on the chart to select it.

  2. Next, tap on menu items such as Layouts, Elements, Colors, or Styles to access and adjust various chart items.

    Excel on Android screenshots: (left) tap chart to select, (middle) Chart element edit options, (right) edit Axis Titles

The process for creating a scatter plot on mobile, laptop, and desktop systems is remarkably similar. Enter your data, select it, insert a chart, then adjust the chart details. The challenge remains making sure that a scatter chart is an appropriate way to visualize your data, and selecting the scatter chart style that best illustrates your point.