# How to Create a Line Chart in MS Excel

A line chart in MS Excel contains two or more individual data points connected by lines. The data points represent a series of information. It explains the relationship between the X-axis and the Y-axis on the graph. A line chart is ideal for describing the relationship between two entities. For example – Sales and Demand or Profit and Loss.

Line charts are easy to read. It distributes the category data along a horizontal axis and the numerical value along the vertical axis.

## When to Use a Line Chart?

The line chart is a simple chart. It is crucial to understand when to use it efficiently to display your data. Use a line chart when you want to:

• Display trends in your data at regular intervals or over time.
• Your data has non-numeric values.
• Use text to display values like months, quarters, or years.
• Use numerical labels to display a time interval like years.
• Display time scales like the number of days, months, and years.

## How to Create a Line Chart in Microsoft Excel

In this tutorial, we will use an existing spreadsheet. It shows the sales of three different flower varieties over four months.

### Step #1: Open Microsoft Excel

Open an existing spreadsheet or create a new sheet.

Enter the data as shown in the following example.

### Step #2: Select data to plot the chart

Select the data to plot the Line chart.

Click with your mouse on B2. While holding the mouse button down, drag your cursor to the bottom of the column (Cell range B2:B5).

Include the column description. This will be the source data to create a line chart for sales – Gladioli.

### Step #3: Select the chart to plot

Click the Insert tab on the main menu bar.

On the Insert ribbon, navigate to the Charts group.

Click the Insert Line Chart icon to display the graph options.

Tip: Hover with your mouse over the icons to see their names.

Select 2-D Line.

The line chart is created as illustrated below.

You will notice that the chart has only one value axis (Y-axis).

The X-axis displays numbers 1 to 4 because we have 4 rows in our source data table. While selecting our data, we did not provide categories. So Excel automatically generated the grouping.

The horizontal axis of a line chart is a category axis, it can be only a text axis or a date axis. So let us plot a Line chart with the category of ‘Month’.

### Step #4: Add a Date axis

Select the data to plot the Line chart.

Click with your mouse on A1. While holding the mouse button down, drag your cursor to B2 and then to the bottom of the column (Cell range A1:B5).

This will be the source data to create a line chart for sales – Gladioli with the category (X-axis) Month.

Click the Insert tab on the top menu bar.

Navigate to the Charts group on the Insert ribbon.

Select 2-D Line.

The line chart is created as illustrated below.

The X-axis displays the months in chronological order.

You can add more than one line to your chart but remember not to clutter. It will make the chart hard to read. The rule of thumb is to limit yourself to five or less lines. But, if the lines are well-separated, you can plot the values that you want to track.

### Step #5: Plot multi-line chart

Select the chart by clicking on it.

Right-click on the chart for another menu to open.

From the pop-up menu click on Select Data...

Or

In the ribbon, click the chart area to display the Chart Design and Format tabs.

Click Select Data on the ribbon.

### Step #6: Add Series to the chart

In the Edit Series box, add the Series name – Asters (Column C)

In Series values, type in the cell range (C2:C5) as shown in the illustration.

Or

Click on the arrow to the right of the Series Values fields.

You will be returned to the spreadsheet.

Click on C2. While holding the mouse button down, drag your cursor to the bottom of the column (Cell range C2:C5).

Click again on the arrow to be returned to the Edit Series window.

The Series values box will be populated with the selected range.

Click on the OK button to return to the Select Data Source dialog box.

Click OK to plot the chart.

Your chart now includes a second series.

Repeat Step #6 to add another series (Column D) – Poinsettia, to your chart.

Your chart should now look like the illustration below.

It is easier to understand the chart by improving the look. Extra information can be added and the main points highlighted. MS Excel provides various options to customize your chart.

### Step #1: Activate the Chart Tools options

Click the chart to display the Chart Design and Format tabs.

Click the Chart Design tab.

Hover your cursor over the Chart Styles for a preview of the styles. Each style includes several chart elements. Select the one that you want to use.

Or

Click on the Quick Layout option in the Charts Layout group on the ribbon.

Each layout includes chart elements.

Or

Click the  icon to edit the Chart Styles. Click the Style tab to scroll up or down and select a chart style from the dropdown list.

Select the layout that best meets your needs.

Besides the inbuilt elements in the layout, you can add individual elements to your chart to match your needs.

### Step #2: Add Chart Elements

To add Chart Elements, select the chart, click the green plus icon on the right of the chart,

Or

double-click on the chart.

Or

Click on the Add Chart Element in the Charts Layout group on the ribbon and select the element from the menu.

The multi-line chart above displays the chart elements selected.

You can Add a chart element by clicking the checkbox against each element name.

To remove a chart element, deselect the checkbox.

### Step #3: Edit Chart Styles and Color

Click the  icon to edit the Chart Styles

Click the Style tab to scroll up or down and select a chart style from the dropdown list.

Click the Colors tab to change the chart theme color as shown in the above illustration.

Or click on the Change Colors on the ribbon to select the color palette.

To further customize these colors, click on ‘How do I change these colors?’ at the bottom of the color pane.

This will display the corresponding tooltip.

Read the contents, and change the theme colors as per your needs.

Markers are a good visual aid, and it makes the data point locations clear. Adding markers to a line plot can be a useful way to distinguish multiple lines. Or to highlight particular data points.

To add a marker to the line, select the line and right-click.

From the pop-up menu, click Format Data Series.

In the Format Data Series pane on the right, click the Fill & Line icon.

Click on Marker

Click on Marker Options and select Built-in.

Click the down arrow in the Type box and select a marker of choice from the list.

Click on the up or down arrow to select a size for the marker. This example has used a gray square marker with size 6.

The gray line displays the markers.

Repeat the above steps to add a marker to the other two lines in the chart.

Your chart will look like the illustration below.

In the above example, we selected each line to apply the markers. But if you are sure of what you want to display in the chart, select all four columns in the spreadsheet.

Click the Insert tab on the top menu bar.

Navigate to the Charts group on the Insert ribbon.

Select 2-D Line.

On the pop-up menu, click More Line Charts.

In the Insert Chart dialog box, click Line.

On the right panel, select the fourth option – Line with Markers.

Click on the OK button.

Your new multi-line chart will now look like the illustration below.

MS Excel plots the chart with Markers (round symbols) and Legends (series or Lines description).

The chart is easy to interpret. In four months, Gladioli and Poinsettia sold well with rising sales. For two consecutive months Asters‘ sales dropped and picked up in the fourth month. You can use these details to plan better sales for the next four months.

Excel offers many customization options. Before applying the formats, play around with the options. They are self-explanatory.

## Conclusion

There are different charts used to visualize data and the Line Chart is only one of them. An important feature of a line chart is to select the right intervals for the data points. Thus, thorough domain knowledge will go a long way to help create an effective Line chart. It is simple yet can display enough data in less space and you can interpret the chart at a glance.