An area chart is based on a line chart, with the area between the line and the x-axis colored to illustrate volume. In this post, we'll explore how to create a standard area chart, as well as a stacked area chart, in Excel.

Don't forget though, you can easily create an area chart for free using Displayr's free area chart maker!

Setting up the data for the area chart

The easiest way to create an area chart in Excel is to first set up your data as a table. The first column should contain the labels and the second column contain the values. To create a stacked area chart where the values are split into sub-groups, create a column for each of the sub-groups. In this example, we'll use a data set which shows annual building permits by region for single unit homes in the US from 2001 through 2016.  The following data set shows total permits issued (in thousands) for each region by year.  The first column contains the y-axis label (year) with a column for each region. The values in the table represent the number of permits.

Creating your area chart

To create an area chart using the above data, highlight the data range (cells A1:B28 in the example above) and select Insert > Charts, select the Line Chart group drop-down menu and then select the second 2-D Area chart option.

creating an area chart in excel

The following area chart is created from the selected data. You can modify the properties of the area chart by first selecting the area chart and then going to the Chart options that appear at the top of the menu tool bar.  From here you can modify the design and format properties of the chart.  In this example, I've added a chart title and changed the legend and axis font size.

area chart

To create the above chart, we started with the data and then turned this into an area chart. In Excel, you can also first create the chart object and then provide the data to populate the chart. To do this, first select the area chart from the Insert > Charts menu to select one of the area chart options. This will create an empty area chart object on the sheet. Next, select Chart Tools > Design > Select Data. This opens the Select Data Source dialogue box. Note that the chart object must be selected for the Chart Tools menu to appear.

For Chart data range, select B1:E28 from the example data above.  In  the Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels section, click the Edit button and select cells A2:A28 and click OK. Excel will create the same chart that was created above. Again, you can modify the chart design and formatting using the Chart Tools menu described above.


Ready to move beyond Excel? There are other ways to create visualizations that offer more advanced options and flexibility. Learn how to create your area chart in Displayr instead!