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How to Make an Excel Pie Chart

See how to make an Excel pie chart, with step-by-step videos and written instructions. A pie chart is a circle, with one or more slices, and each slice is sized to show its share of the overall total amount.

Introduction

A pie chart is a circle with one or more slices, and each slice is sized to show its share of the overall total amount. You can even get fancy, and add pictures to the pie chart slices.

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Watch these 2 videos to see:

  1. How to build a simple pie chart in Excel
  2. How to add pictures to the pie chart slices

How to Build a Pie Chart

How to Add Pictures to Pie Chart Slices

How to Build a Pie Chart

A pie chart is a circle with one or more slices, and each slice is sized to show its share of the overall total amount. Here are the steps for setting up the data, and creating a pie chart.

Then, make a few changes to the chart setup, so it's easy to read and understand.

Set Up Your Data

What should your data look like, if you want to build a pie chart? It should have the following:

  • just one row or one column of numbers
  • (optional) one row or column with text that describes the numbers.
  • (optional) heading cells for the numbers and text

Warning – Only use a few numbers, or the pie chart won’t be readable. I’d pick 6 as the upper limit, but let your conscience (or your boss) be your guide.

In the screen shot below, you can see two sets of data showing sales per region.

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  • At the top, the data is arranged vertically, with numbers in a single column.
  • In rows 9 and 10, the data is arranged horizontally, with numbers in a single row.

We could create a pie chart from either set of numbers.

Insert the Chart

After your data is set up, follow these steps to insert a pie chart:

  • Select any cell in the data.
  • On the Excel Ribbon, click the Insert tab
  • In the Charts group, click Pie
  • Then, click the first pie option, at the top left. Do not be lured by any of the other options, like exploded pie, or worst of all, a 3-D pie.

A pie chart will be inserted on the active sheet, in the middle of the Excel window.

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The chart will show the heading from the number column as a chart title, and a legend with the text descriptions, if your data includes those.

Make Changes to Pie Chart

After you build a pie chart, make changes to the chart, if needed.

Move the Chart

Resize the Chart

Add Labels to the Chart

Delete the Legend

Change Data Label Contents

Format Data Label Font

Move the Chart

The new chart is selected, so you can move it to a different location, if you don’t want it in the middle of the sheet.

  • Point to the border of the chart, or to the chart area – a popup description tells you what you’re pointing at.
  • Then, drag the chart to the location where you want it.

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Resize the Chart

When the chart is selected, you can also resize it, to make it larger or smaller.

  • Point to the one of the dotted handles on the border of the chart, where the pointer will change to a two-headed arrow.
  • Then, drag the handle in or out, to change its size.

You can resize the chart again later, after making all the formatting changes.

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Add Labels to the Chart

By default, the chart has a legend at the side, that shows the text description for each slice of the pie. To make it easier to read, you should put a label on each slice, and get rid of the legend. That way, people won’t have to look back and forth, from the legend to the pie, trying to match the colours.

To add labels, right-click on any slice in the pie, then click Add Data Labels, in the popup menu.

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Each slice will show its numeric value. You’ll make those labels look better in a minute.

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Delete the Legend

Now that the pie slices have labels, we don’t need the legend at the right.

To delete the legend, right-click on the legend, then click Delete.

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Change the Data Label Contents

The data labels currently show just the value for each slice, in a small, dark font. We’ll change the information that shows, and make the labels easier to read.

Right-click on any label, and click Format Data Labels

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  • In the Format Data Labels window, click the Label Options category, at the left.
  • In the “Label Contains” section, check the items that you want to see on each pie slice. If you aren’t sure what each item is, add a check mark, to see it in the preview window.
    • I’ll include the Category Name and Percentage in this example.
    • Keep it simple – don’t try to show all the information in each label
    • I left “Show Leader Lines” selected, even though it won’t have any effect in this chart – all its labels will be inside the pie.
  • In the “Label Position” section, choose the position that’s best for your chart.
    • I’ve selected Inside End, because these slices are all fairly big.
    • For a pie with narrower slices, select Best Fit instead.
  • Click Close, to apply the changes

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Format the Data Label Font

Now that the data labels show the content you want, format them, so they’re easier to read.

  • Right-click on one of the data labels, to show the popup menu and formatting bar.
  • In the formatting bar, select a font that’s large enough to read – 14 pt in this example.
  • If there is room, format the font as Bold
  • Select a font colour that contrasts best with the pie slice colours – I picked white.

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Pie Chart Alternative

If you have the option of choosing a different chart type, consider making a Bar chart or Column chart, instead of a pie chart.

These charts make it easier to compare the values, as you can see below.

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Add Pictures to Pie Chart Slices

While flipping through a magazine on the weekend, I saw this pizza pie chart. Yes, the pizza looks delicious, but the toppings are split down the middle. That makes the vote appear to be 50-50, not 58-42. Fun idea, but bad pizza pie chart!

pizzapiechart01

The picture was making me hungry. I didn’t want to ruin my dinner, by going out for a pizza snack, so I decided to make a better pizza pie chart in Excel.

Build a Chart in Excel

First, I entered the results on a worksheet (I was using Excel 2013).

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  • Then, I selected one of the cells in the list, and on the Ribbon, clicked the Insert tab.
  • Next, I clicked the Recommended Charts command, to see what it would suggest.

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Since there were only two items in my list, the recommended chart type was Pie. The second suggestion was a column chart, and third was a bar chart.

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  • I left the selection on Pie Chart, and clicked OK.

Format the Pie Chart

The default pie chart had slices in the correct size, so it showed the results better than the original pizza pie chart. But it needed some formatting, to make it look better. If nothing else, it needed a title, and those colours had to be changed to red and white!

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  • So, I selected the Legend, and deleted it, then typed Favorite Pizza Types as the title.
  • To show the percentages on the chart, I clicked the Design tab on the Ribbon
  • Then I clicked Add Chart Element, Data Labels, Center

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  • That added small labels, so I selected them, and made them bigger, and bold font.

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Add Picture Background

I rarely use picture backgrounds on a chart, but this seemed like a good time to make an exception.

  • Using Snagit, I cropped out a square of the red pizza toppings, and a square with the white toppings.
  • I saved those squares as jpg files.
  • Next, I clicked on the pie, to select it, then clicked on the Red slice, to select it.
  • Then, so see the formatting options, click Format Data Point

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  • In the Format Data Point window, click the Paint button, to see the Fill Options
  • Click Picture or Texture Fill, then click the File button

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  • Select the file that has the Red topping, and click Insert

That looks better!

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  • Then, repeat the steps, to select and format the White slice, using its background picture.
  • I added a black outline on the pie chart too, to make the slices stand out a bit more. Maybe I should have used thick brown borders, so it would look like pizza crust!

The Finished Chart

Here is the finished version of the chart. Now, it’s easy to see which topping most people prefer. And if that made you hungry, I’m sorry!

  • Would you ever use picture backgrounds in a chart?
  • What would you have done to improve the pizza pie chart?

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Download the Sample File

Simple Pie Chart -- Download this sample Pie Chart workbook with the data to create a simple pie chart. The zipped file is in xlsx format, and does not contain macros.

More Tutorials

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Last updated: July 1, 2020 1:56 PM