Nothing beats visuals when you need a simple way to track progress. Visual indicators can tell you which project is leading immediately without delving into numbers. In this guide, we’re going to show you How to visualize percentage progress in Excel.

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Although the charts are the stars between Excel visualizations, do not underestimate the Conditional Formatting feature. It offers more than coloring the cells.

For this guide, we will use the following dataset.

Project Progress
Project 1 38%
Project 2 42%
Project 3 27%
Project 4 56%
Project 5 85%

Let's see the Conditional Formatting options which can visualize the percentage progress of given projects.

Color Scales

This is the most basic and common usage of conditional formatting. The feature allows you to set a background color based on the value of the cells. Thus, different values mean different colors. The cool thing is that you do not need to set color for each cell. Excel can apply colors in a scale automatically.

  1. Start by selecting the values.
  2. Follow Home > Conditional Formatting > Color Scales to see predefined options.
  3. Select a color option which suits you.
    How to visualize percentage progress in Excel 01 - Color Scale

Of course, you are not limited to listed colors. You can change the colors and the number logic behind color degradation. You can reach the options by selecting the cells again and following Home > Conditional Formatting > Manage Rules command.

Once the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager window is open, double-click the rule you want to modify.

Data Bars

Data Bars are bar charts in a cell scale. They allow you to track progress between projects by comparing bar sizes.

You can find predefined options under Home > Conditional Formatting > Data Bars menu.

Also, you can choose not to show the cell value if the exact value is not important for the chart. Open the options for the Data Bar formatting you added and check Show Bar Only option.

Click the OK buttons to apply the setting.

Colored Icons

Conditional Formatting has icons as well to visualize percentage progress. The first set of icons we want to show are color-based icons. The color-based icons are simple shapes like circles, squares, or arrows. Usually you have three predefined colors: green, yellow and red. Unfortunately, you can't change the colors of the icons.

You can find the icon sets under Home > Conditional Formatting > Icon Sets.

How to visualize percentage progress in Excel 06 - Icon Sets

You can still change the limits where icons change and hide values. If you are working with percentage values, it will be good to adjust limit numbers. For example, let's say we want to show values under 33% as red, between 33% and 67% as yellow and the rest as green. Then the Type should be Number rather than Percentage and we need to give the values manually.

Here is the result: