How To Create a Combo Chart in Excel (With Steps and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 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.

Data visualization is an essential component of learning more about business operations and identifying improvement opportunities. Combo charts are useful data visualization tools that can enable professionals to present and understand data in a simple way. Learning how to create combo charts can help you develop visually appealing and legible charts.

In this article, we review what combo charts are, why you might create these types of charts, list six steps to help you create a combo chart and explore tips to help you create your own data visualization chart.

What is a combo chart in Excel?

A combination chart in Excel is a single chart that has two Y-axis that enables viewers to compare data. Both charts use the same scale, which can help professionals understand the relationships between different data sets. There are several different displays you can use, which can help you present the information in your chart in a simple-to-understand manner. Some displays you might choose include:

  • Clustered column with a line

  • Clustered column with a line on a secondary y-axis

  • Stacked area with a clustered column

Related: What Is Data Visualization: Definition, Types and Tools

Why create a combo chart in Excel?

Many professionals create combo charts to visualize and compare two data sets to determine their relationships. Combo charts are also useful ways to understand performance or business trends. Sometimes individuals use the line chart to establish company goals, which can help them easily determine if certain metrics perform at, above or below those goals.

How to create a combo chart in Excel

Here are some steps you can follow to help you create a comprehensive and simple-to-understand combo chart in Excel:

1. Organize your data

Reviewing and organizing your data before creating a combo chart can help reduce the time taken to adjust your chart in the future. Organizing your data can also enable you to verify the accuracy of your data and remove any redundancies or erroneous data. Completing this before selecting your combo chart can also help you better determine which type of combo chart works better for your data.

2. Select your data tables

Once you've organized your data, you can highlight your data tables. This enables Excel to convert the data in the highlighted area to a usable chart. To select or highlight your data table, you can click and drag your mouse over your data table.

Excel highlights the information in your selection in gray while you're dragging, which can help you easily distinguish your highlighted area. Once you've reached the end of your table, you can release the button on your mouse. Ensure you highlight the header information in your table to ensure this information transfers to the axis and legend of your chart.

Related: How To Create a Data Table in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

3. Click the 'Insert' tab

Now that you've highlighted your data table, you can navigate to the 'Insert' tab in Excel. This is commonly the second tab near the top left of your window. Once the command ribbon changes to reflect the tab's tools, find the "Charts" area of the ribbon. The combo chart feature has its own selection button, which looks like a bar chart with a dotted line above it.

Clicking on the combo chart button generates a drop-down menu displaying your combo chart options. You can choose one of the pre-made charts or create your own custom combo chart. Leaving your mouse over each option before clicking your chart option also creates an informative blurb that describes when you might use each type of combo chart.

4. Insert a combination chart

If you choose one of the pre-made combo charts, Excel auto-generates your chart. If you decide to create your own custom combo chart, a pop-up menu appears on the screen. In this menu, you can change your chart type or add a secondary axis to improve the visualization of the data set. This window also creates a preview of your chart, which can help you determine the chart type that best represents your data. Some chart types to consider include:

  • Clustered column

  • Stacked column

  • 100% stacked bar

  • Stacked line

  • 100% stacked line with markers

  • Area

  • Pie of pie

  • Scatter with smooth lines

  • Filled radar

Related: How To Make a Chart in Excel (With Step-by-Step Instructions)

5. Adjust colors and title

Excel has default colors and designs for its charts. It also auto-populates a legend, title placeholder and axis information. Changing these features can help you highlight certain aspects of your chart and improve readability. To change the design and components of your chart, select your chart. This creates the "Chart Design" and "Format" tabs on your command ribbon.

Selecting the "Chart Design" tab enables you to adjust the colors and elements of your chart. It also allows you to switch the rows and columns, move your chart and select data. The "Format' tab allows you to change other visual aspects of your chart, such as shapes, shape styles, WordArt styles and chart sizes.

Related: Color Choices in Data Visualizations: Importance and How To

6. Change chart type as needed

As you add to your data set, you might decide to change the type of charts used in your combo chart. Changing chart types can also help you focus on different aspects of your data, which can result in better data insights. For example, you might change your chart type from a clustered column with a line to a stacked area and clustered column chart that can change the focus from series one data to series two data.

To change the types of charts used in your combo chart, navigate to the "Chart Design" tab in the command ribbon. Then, select the "Change Chart Type" button, often found in the right corner of the window. This generates a pop-up menu similar to the custom combo chart option used when first creating your combo chart. Once you've adjusted your chart to your desired combinations, select "OK" to implement the changes.

Tips for creating a combo chart in Excel

Here are some tips you can reflect on that can help you create your combo chart in your spreadsheet:

  • Collaborate with other professionals: Collaborating with other professionals or asking your peers to review your chart can help you determine if your chart is simple and easy to understand. This can also provide you the opportunity to have your peers ask questions about your data and chart, which can help you prepare for a public presentation of your charts.

  • Consider your audience: Reflecting on the intended audience for your charts or data can help you create a chart that conveys information to your audience's experience level. For example, you might want a simple combo chart for viewers who have minimal chart viewing experience or are unfamiliar with the data you're presenting.

  • Print or review your chart: Printing or reviewing your charts against a plain background can help you understand more about the readability of your charts. For example, some charts might have lower readability with white text or similar color choices, such as red and orange.

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