A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Make a Pie Chart in Excel

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 14, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You can use graphs and charts in the workplace to represent raw data as an easy-to-understand visual. You may use charts to either represent primary data set with few entries, or include much more extensive data. Understanding the importance of pie charts and learning how to use and interpret them may help you communicate data more effectively with coworkers and stakeholders. In this article, we explore what a pie chart is, explain how to make a pie chart in Excel, discuss the various uses of a pie chart, and provide essential tips to consider when creating a pie chart.

What is a pie chart?

A pie chart provides a visual representation of data sets in an Excel worksheet. Pie charts help define data sets with values that add up to form a whole. The pie chart looks like a pie or a doughnut, representing the different data entries as a percentage of a total in proportional slices. For example, you may use a pie chart to represent the various streams of income that contribute to a company's total revenue in their respective proportions.

How to make a pie chart in Excel

You can follow these steps when learning how to make a pie chart in Excel:

1. Create your categories

Before creating a pie chart in Excel, it's essential to define your data set. A data set is a list of columns or rows from which the pie chart derives its values. The data set also determines the name and size of the pie chart.

It's vital that the cells in your data set contain single values that Excel can read and appropriately represent in the pie chart. For example, suppose your data set contains numerical values. In that case, it's necessary to leave the first in the row or column empty to indicate to Excel which axis has the category names.

2. Add your data values

When creating your data set, the first task is outlining the category title in the first row and column. You may then enter the first values in the first column or row. When entering values, it's essential to ensure there are no empty cells in the data set, as this may affect the outlook of the pie chart.

Again, when creating the pie chart, Excel adds up the values in the second row or column and then assigns proportions to each of those values and determines the size of the pieces in the pie chart. It's also essential when entering the values to place them either directly below or beside the data category for rows and columns, respectively. Setting the values in that order helps Excel properly tag the values and create legends in the pie chart.

3. Select your data values and create the chart

Highlight the data range by clicking on the cell on the top left corner and dragging it until you've selected all the cells with values you wish to include in the pie chart. Then go to the top left corner of your window and click the "Insert" tab next to the "Home" tab. Next, select "Insert pie/doughnut chart " from the list of options.

Alternatively, you may choose the pie chart icon from the drop-down options. This option gives you a drop-down list of different types of a pie charts that may be 2D or 3D. While the 2D format presents the chart in a basic design that's easy to read, 3D charts have more visual appeal and may look more professional for dynamic presentations.

4. Customize the chart features

When you click on a pie chart option from the drop-down menu, the chart and its legends appear as an image in the Excel sheet. If you wish, you may change the features such as colour, appearance, size, font, or data representation of the pie chart. You may also change the data source without creating a new pie chart.

To make changes in the chart, click on it and open the customization window. The menu shows a list of options like "Chart styles," "Chart filters," or "Chart elements" that allow you to add a title, edit labels and legends, hide data, and adjust diagram colour.

Related: How to End a Presentation

Uses of an Excel pie chart

An Excel pie chart allows you to create a diagram from tabulated data, which you can save as an image file or import into presentation slides, reports, employee handbooks, or other presentation tools. The different types of data you may represent in an Excel pie chart include:

  • Percentage of sales in a period from different business branches

  • Labour distribution among various team members in a project

  • Outcome of staff or customer survey

  • Representation of other age groups in a target audience

Related: How to Use Infographics for Resumes

Types of Excel pie chart

When considering how to make a pie chart in Excel, here are some types you can explore:

  • Doughnut chart: A doughnut chart is like a pie chart but with a hole in the middle. This chart is appropriate for multiple statistical data sets, and you can fix additional information in the middle.

  • Multi-level pie chart: Also known as a ring or sunburst chart, a multi-level pie chart contains an inner section and an outer section that shows how other data sets relate to the significant item. For example, the inner layer of the graph may contain the population distribution in a locality based on age, while the outer layer shows gender distribution for each slice.

  • Exploded pie chart: This type of pie chart has spaces between the slices to help emphasize each piece. It also allows smaller portions to be visible and independent.

  • Polar area chart: In a polar area chart, each segment varies based on its distance from the centre of the circle. You may use this type of pie chart to represent data within a time frame.

Tips for making an Excel pie chart

Here are some tips you may apply when creating an Excel pie chart:

Explore different types of pie chart

Clicking the "Insert" option at the top left of your worksheet helps you access the different pie chart types in Excel. You may also create different variations of the standard pie chart option when clicking the other available icons. Exploring the various pie charts allows you to access additional features that better represent your data and optimize functionality.

In the middle of your pie chart is a white space that shows the distribution of the chart data in arcs around the centre hole. Another vital option you may explore is the "pie of pie" or "bar of pie" feature. This allows you to represent a smaller section of your pie chart and its composition in a smaller pie chart without eliminating the bigger one. It also helps you highlight a detail in your chart that you want to emphasize.

Use colours strategically

Although standard pie charts in Excel come with preset colours, you can switch the colours based on your preference. You may use colour codes to improve the chart's visual representation and emphasize specific data categories. For example, when creating a chart to show population spread in a particular locality, you may use different colour codes for the different age groups. You may use brighter colours like blue or red to represent the young population and use darker or pastel colours to represent the senior population.

Use as few data categories as possible

When using a pie chart to represent a data set visually, it's advisable to use simpler data sets with less than 10 categories. The reason is that it makes it easier for your audience to see the connection between different parts of the chart and the whole. If the data set contains more than 10 categories, you may group smaller divisions into one and give it a generic name. Alternatively, when working with a complex data set, you may create multiple pie charts, use a bar chart, or use mixed charts to represent the different categories better.

Related: 8 Types of Project Charts for Effective Project Management

Add labels to the pieces of the pie chart

It's important to tag the slices of your pie chart with titles after creating them. You may make these titles by including them in the data set and allowing Excel to develop legends for those titles when creating the chart. Adding these titles after creating the pie chart by right-clicking on it is another option.

Select the "Add data labels" option from the drop-down menu when you right-click on the chart to create these titles. Then insert alphabetical or numerical values into the pie chart. You may also select the "Format data labels" and then the "Label options" tab to show or edit the category names. Under the label option, choose the information you wish to include and switch the label arrangement.

Consider separating a slice

Separating a slice of your pie chart is a feature that allows you to focus on a particular data entry in the data set. To do this, click on the piece on the chart you wish to separate and hold down until that piece switches to a slightly different colour. You can then drag the slice away from the rest of the chart with your cursor. You can also return to the standard chart format by undoing the steps or dragging the slice back.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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