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Using Graphics to Represent Data Series

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Using Graphics to Represent Data Series.

Excel is great at creating all sorts of charts from your data. You can even customize the charts to your heart's content. One of the customizations you can make is to replace the regular bars (in a bar chart) with your own graphics. For instance, you might have a small graphic of a house that you want to use for the bars. This could be great if you wanted to used "stacked" houses to represent, for instance, housing starts in an area.

To use your own graphics in place of Excel's built-in bars, follow these steps:

  1. Create your bar chart as usual.
  2. Right click on one of the data series bars in the chart. Excel displays a Context menu.
  3. Choose Format Data Series from the Context menu. Excel displays the Format Data Series dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Patterns tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Patterns tab of the Format Data Series dialog box.

  6. Click on Fill Effects. Excel displays the Fill Effects dialog box.
  7. Make sure the Picture tab is selected. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Picture tab from the Fill Effects dialog box.

  9. Click on Select Picture. Excel displays the Select Picture dialog box, which is very similar to a standard Open dialog box.
  10. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the picture you want to use.
  11. Click on Insert. Excel closes the Select Picture dialog box and redisplays the Fill Effects dialog box.
  12. In the Format section of the Picture tab, choose how you want the graphic to be applied to the bar. (I like to choose Stack And Scale To and then specify how to many units each picture represents.)
  13. Click on OK in each open dialog box to close them.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3199) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Using Graphics to Represent Data Series.

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