How to Make a Gauge Chart in Excel

Whether you’re building a dashboard or just wanting another chart to add to your disposal, the gauge chart is always a popular choice. In this post, I’ll show you how you can create it painlessly and add it to your disposal next time you want to use a chart. It’s especially useful if you’re looking to compare actual vs forecast or need to track a completion percentage

As long as the version of Excel you’re using has a doughnut chart available, you’ll be able to follow these steps.

STEP 1: Set Up the Data for the Gauge Chart

First, you’ll want to set up two columns: one for the intervals and how big the pieces of the gauge chart will be.

For the intervals, normally, what I’ve seen is a 25/50/25 split, meaning the first and last portions are the same size, with the middle being the largest. The column needs to add up to 200, and so the last piece in this example would be 100.

For the second column, this is where you’ll determine where the marker shows up to track your progress or where your actuals come in at.

  • The first number should be 0
  • The second number the percentage; how far on the gauge chart you want the marker to be. This is where you’ll probably want to use a formula as this is the only number that should move on this chart.
  • The third number is how big the marker should be. In this example, I set it to five, and that’s about the highest I’d suggest it should be.
  • The last number is the remainder – here too, you’ll want the total for the column to add up to 200.

Here’s how my columns look right now:

gauge chart table

To move on to step two, create a chart using the Marker and Interval columns (include the labels).

STEP 2: Select the Two Columns and Create a Combo Chart

On the All Charts tab, at the very bottom, you’ll see an option for Combo. The Interval column should be a Doughnut chart while the Marker column should be a Pie chart. You’ll want them on two different axes, so make sure you have Secondary Axis ticked off as well.

excel combo charts

STEP 3: Format the Data Series on the Charts

Right click on the chart and select Format Data Series and select Angle of First Slice to 270 degrees. You’ll need to do this for both charts. To switch between charts, click on the Series Options button and select the other series.

series options selection excel

STEP 4: Change the Colors

Using the Series Options from above, make sure you have the Marker series selected. Here is where it gets a little tricky – you’ll need to select every part of the chart and make it blank except for the size of the slice – which you’ll probably want black.

If you have trouble moving across the different parts of the chart, use CTRL + left/right arrow keys to move along the sections. Your chart should now look something like this:

bar chart and doughnut excel

Now, switch over to the Interval series. Here you’ll do the same, except now you’ll be changing the bottom half of the doughnut so that it is blank, and everything else you can change to your liking. In my example, I’m going to go from red to light green to dark green. Here is what the chart looks like after those changes:

gauge chart basic

STEP 5: Additional Formatting (Optional)

You can do any additional formatting to the chart to make it look how you want. In my example, I added a bevel and some shadows to it to make it stand out a little more. I also shrunk the size of the slice to two:

gauge chart excel bevel

Save the Gauge Chart for Future Use

If you like your chart and think you’ll reuse it in the same type of layout, what you can do now is save it as a template. To do that, simply right click on the chart and select Save as Template

excel chart save template

Now, if you have the data in the same format you can go back to insert chart and look for the Templates folder which will now have the saved chart template:

excel chart template

That’s all there is to it! Please let me know if you run into any issues or require clarification on any of the steps above.


Using Stacked Charts and Showing Totals

A stacked chart in Excel allows users to take advantage of the best of both worlds: a column chart that shows period-over-period totals and a pie chart that can show what made up those totals. It can be a very useful chart, but knowing how to structure it is half the battle.

In my example, I pulled Alphabet’s earnings for the most recent four quarters. I wanted to show a) the period-over-period sales as well as where those sales went, and how much flowed through to the company’s operating income.

Below is the table that I used:

The key things is you want to make sure that all your categories add up to the amount that you’re trying to reconcile (in my case, it’s revenue).

Once the data is ready, select the data and insert a Stacked Column

stacked column chart excel
In my example, the categories showed on the horizontal axis, which is not what I wanted, so in order to fix that, right click on the chart and press Select Data
stacked column chart excel
From there, you want to hit the button to switch row/column:
chart switch row and column excel
This will give you a stacked chart. The problem, however, is that my total (revenue) is mixed into this, and that’s not going to give me the desired result. After all, I want to see where the revenue goes, not include the revenue in my categories.
To fix this, you’ll want to right click on one of your column charts and select Change Series Chart Type

excel change series chart type

That should take you to the Combo section. If it doesn’t, make sure to select it. All your series should show a stacked chart. You’ll want to change the revenue series to a Line chart. By doing so, it will not contribute to the stacked chart and now it’ll simply be made up of the other categories. 
combo chart excel
Next, add data labels for the line chart so now you’ll see the totals. To do this, right click on the line chart and click Add Data Labels

The problem is the labels show to the right, and it probably makes more sense for these labels to show above the stacked chart. Right click on any of the labels and select Format Data Labels

excel chart format data labels

Make sure that for the label position, Above is selected
excel chart format data labels
Now my chart is starting to come together:
excel stacked line chart
Except I still have that line going over the top of the stacked charts. To get rid of the line, right click on the line chart and select Format Data Series

excel chart format data series

Select No line from the Line section
excel chart format line

Now, select the Marker and make sure the fill option is set to No Fill
excel chart format marker
Now, I’ve gotten rid of the line completely:
excel stacked chart
At this point it just comes down to designing the chart how you want it. Some of the changes I made included:
  • Getting rid of ‘Revenue’ from the legend
  • Changing the color theme
  • Shrinking the gaps between the stacked charts
excel stacked chart

Save a Chart as an Image File

Excel has a lot of different charts that you can use to summarize your data with. If you want to use your chart in PowerPoint or Word it’s an easy copy and paste job, but suppose you wanted to save the chart as a .gif, .png, or .jpeg file? Then you would need the help of VBA to accomplish that.

The code below will save the chart that you’ve selected as a .jpeg file into same folder as your Excel file:


Sub SaveChartAsJPEG()

Dim Fname As String
If ActiveChart Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
Fname = ThisWorkbook.Path & “” & ActiveChart.Name & “.jpeg
ActiveChart.Export Filename:=Fname, FilterName:=”jpeg
End Sub


The code above will save the file as a jpeg, but you can change it to .png, .gif, or whatever format you prefer by just changing the values in red.

Note: If your chart is small then your image will be as well. If you want the chart to save as a large image you’ll want to stretch it out first and then run the macro.

Once you’ve saved the code then what you’ll probably want to do is assign a shortcut key for the macro so that you can easily save whichever chart you’ve selected.

You can read this post on how to insert code into VBA. It will also show you how you can assign a shortcut key to a macro.


Formatting Charts to Make Them More Appealing

Excel makes it easy to convert a data set into a chart. The problem is that often the default chart settings aren’t the greatest. Below I have some sample data that I will convert into a chart:

If I click on the data and go on the Insert tab and click on a new Column Chart it will create the following chart for me (this may vary based on which version of Excel you are using):

There are a number of things that don’t appeal to me here that I am going to change:
– Gridlines are a little darker and more prominent than they need to be
– Gridlines stretch past the axis
– The legend is off to the side, which takes up chart space
– The border around the chart itself
– The gaps are a bit big
– The flat look of the chart

These may appear minor issues but in terms of presentation they can make a big difference. First I will start with the grid lines.

Formatting Gridlines

If I click on any of the gridlines I can right-click and select Format Gridlines. Under Line Color, the color is set to Automatic. I can change this by selecting Solid line.

I am going to change the color to grey so that it does not stand out as much.

Next I will have to format the axis to stop the gridlines from going past the axis. To do this I click on one of the axis labels to select them and again right-click and select Format Axis

From there, under the Axis Options there is a drop-down option for Major tick mark type. By default it is set to Outside. I am going to change this to None in order to remove it.

I will also change the Line Color here to match the grey from the gridlines. I repeat these steps for the other axis to get rid of the tick marks there as well.

Formatting the Legend and Adding a Chart Title

Next, I will change the legend so that it shows at the bottom of the chart. This is an easy fix and all I need to do is select the Layout tab from under the Chart Tools section of the ribbon. From there I select Legend and choose Show Legend at Bottom.

To the left of the Legend drop down is a section for Chart Title. This is where you can select how you want your title to appear.

If you select Centered Overlay Title you don’t lose chart space but then your title is overlapping with your chart. Above Chart will put the title above the actual chart so that there is no overlap.

Removing the Border 

Next, I am going to remove the border around the chart itself. To do so, I need to right-click somewhere on the white space that isn’t on the plot area. Somewhere near an axis or the legend will work. Then I can select Format Chart Area.

If I select Border Color I can change the setting from Automatic to No line to remove the border.

It may look a little odd if your gridlines are showing so you may want the outline. However unless you print with gridlines, then the chart will blend in better without them. Below is an example of the two charts with and without borders in print preview mode:

Shrinking the Gaps

Lastly, I will shrink the gaps in the chart. To do this I will right-click on any of the columns and select Format Data Series.

Under Series Options there is a section for Gap Width. The default is 150%. I normally set this to 50%.

Changing Colors/Effects

If you wanted to change the colors of the chart you can do so individually or just change the theme. To change the theme go under Chart Tools and this time select the Design tab.

Changing the theme will undo the changes I have made to the gridline colors so if you do those changes you will want to change the theme first.

You don’t have to select a theme, you can change colors one by one. To change the color of an individual series you can do so by right-clicking on one of the columns and select Format Data Series and change the fill color under the Fill section.

Instead, what I am going to do is adjust the shadows. Right now they look flat, and I want a bit of an elevated effect. While still in the above menu I can select the Shadow option. If I click on the drop down in the Presets field, I will have a number of shadow options. I don’t use the inner shadows since they make the columns a bit dark, and the outer ones leave too long of a shadow. In this case I select the Offset Left option.

This is what my chart looks like now after all the changes:

Saving a New Template

Rather than making these changes every time I can save my changes to a template. To do so, just click on Save As Template which is under the Design tab in Chart Tools. Then just assign a name and your template is saved.

If you want to use your template again simply when select chart types select the Templates folder and you will see it there.


Shading Areas on a Chart to Highlight Gaps and Variances

When comparing forecasted amounts vs actuals one way to help emphasize and highlight variances is by shading those areas. I’ll show you how to easily do that in this post.

Below is my starting data set

I will need to create two extra columns to this data set. The first one I will just call Starting Values and they will match my forecasted amounts. The next column, called Variances will be equal to the actuals less forecasted values.
Next I will plot a line graph with these values. 

line graph
I will need to change the chart type for the starting values and variances data sets. They need to be set to the stacked area charts.
Area charts
For the starting variances series, click on Format Data Series and under the Fill section select No Fill. What remains are the shaded areas in addition the line graphs. You can change the shading to a different fill colour or texture.
shaded chart

horizontal line data

Plotting Vertical and Horizontal Lines in Charts

When charting something on Excel you sometimes may want to add vertical lines to identify key dates, or horizontal lines for target or benchmark amounts. In this post I’ll show you how to do both.
Horizontal lines can be used to identify target or benchmark amounts while vertical lines are useful to mark dates. In my example I’ve downloaded googles historical closing stock prices for the year and I’m going to mark the year long average and identify their earnings dates

Horizontal Lines

I’ll first start with horizontal lines. If you have amounts on the y-axis then a horizontal line can act as an indicator to show if the amounts have crossed a targeted amount. In order to add a horizontal line all you’ll need to do is create another column in your table.
The key thing for this column is all the values have to be identical for each entry. I can set it to a single number and copy it down, or I can do a calculation as well. What I will use is the closing price average in this column using the AVERAGE formula. If I copy this down I am left with a value that stays constant for the entire data set.
horizontal line data
If I chart this graph using a line chart my horizontal line is now visible
chart horizontal line

Vertical Lines 

Vertical lines are a bit more tricky but not difficult. In my example I am going to put a vertical line at every earnings date since I know those days will have a lot of fluctuations and will also create quarterly intervals. I have created a column for all the earnings dates in the year, aka my earnings calendar.
earnings calendar
 Again I will need to create another column in my table. 
In this column I will look to see if the date for this row matches one of the dates in my earnings calendar. If there is a match, I will set the value to 1. Whether you use the MATCH formula or the VLOOKUP formula doesn’t matter. But I will use the MATCH formula in this example. The key is including the IF and ISERROR formulas  because if I do not find a value it will return an error, and specifically I will use the NA() formula to return the NA error so that that amount does not appear on the chart as a zero. And if it is a match, I can make it set to 1.
First I will start with the IF function, add ISERROR, and add the MATCH function to now see if the date on this row matches anything in my earnings calendar), and if it is not a match, make it equal to an NA error, otherwise make it equal to 1 indicate a match.
My formula looks like this:

Where column G is where my earnings calendar is located.
Now I will copy my formula all the way down. It may not look terribly nice in your table with all those errors but it will get the job done.
Match function
I’m ready to chart my graph now. Select line chart again. However unlike for the horizontal line, it needs some work.
The earnings dates need to be plotted against the secondary axis. To do this, I right click on the series and click Format Data Series and select Secondary Axis.

Format data series

Next, I need to change the series chart type so that it is a column chart. I will right click on the series again and select Change Series Chart Type and then select a column chart.
column chart
I will go back to format the data series once more to add a border which will allow me to make the line look thicker.  By going to Border Colors this time I can specify the colour, and then under Border Styles I can modify the Weight.
I will now format the secondary data axis. I will set the maximum height equal to 1, the value that I set for the earnings column when there was a match. It doesn’t matter what you set that value to, whether it is 1, 100, 1000, you will just need to change the axis accordingly to make sure that value is at least as large as your scale to have the line go all the way across. If you have values that you are currently using on your secondary axis you will want to take that into account and consider what is a good maximum value for that secondary chart, and use that value, rather than 1.
Next, I will hide the secondary axis (if you need it for other values obviously this is optional). To do this right click on the axis, click Format Axis, and set Axis Labelsto None.
Axis Labels
Now my chart is good to go with both vertical and horizontal lines.
Chart Vertical Line