A scatter chart is a graphic representation of data by placing a collection of points on Cartesian Coordinates. The position of each point is determined by the value of two variables, one for the x-axis and the other for the y-axis.

Scatter charts are useful for showing the correlation between two variables. The values in the horizontal axis represent the control parameters or independent variables, while the values in the vertical axis represent the measured or dependent variables.

In addition to the dot representation, lines and bubbles are also used in scatter charts. The lines provide a similar visual as line charts. On the other hand, the bubbles can take another set of variables to display different sized bubbles that signify the second magnitude.

scatter chart


Scatter Chart Basics


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A scatter chart mainly has 5 sections:

  • Plot Area: This is the place where the graphic representation takes place. Series can be displayed as dots, lines, or bubbles. Typically, series are distinguished by different colors.
  • Chart Title: The chart name that describes the visualization.
  • Y-Axis (Vertical): The axis that contains the dependent variables, also known as measures, or the y-axis. The data series can be split into groups like shown in the sample chart above.
  • X-Axis (Horizontal): The axis that represents the independent variables, also known as control parameters, or the x-axis.
  • Legend: The legend helps distinguish the data series from each other.


scatter chart

The data of a scatter chart can be displayed with dots (markers), lines, and bubbles. You can also choose between straight and smooth lines, and marker types.

  • Scatter: This is the traditional scatter chart type. Each dot represents a variable in the form of coordinates. Different colors mean different variables (series).
  • Smooth Lines and Markers: This type looks like a line chart with markers (dots). The variable markers are connected with a smooth line. You can make the line straight or remove the markers altogether. This type works best if you have fewer data points in your table.
  • Bubble: A Bubble chart can be used to indicate the value of another variable in the given coordinates. Larger bubbles indicate larger values.


Insert a Scatter Chart

Start by selecting your data in Excel. Including data labels in your selection will be automatically recognized by Excel.

scatter chart

Go to the Insert tab in the Ribbon and click on the Scatter Chart icon to see the available chart types. Click on the desired chart type to insert. In this example, we’re going to be using Scatter.

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Clicking the icon inserts the default version of the chart. Now, let’s look at how you can customize the chart.


Customize Your Scatter Chart

You can edit almost any element in a chart, and there are a few ways to do so. All methods will yield pretty much the same results.


Double-clicking on a chart area item will pop up the side panel that contains options for the selected element. Keep in mind that you don’t need to double-click another element to switch to another once the side panel is open. Selecting the other item while this window is active will switch to that element.

Side panel includes element specific options as well as generic options like coloring and effects.

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Right-Click (Context) Menu

Right-clicking an element displays the context menu. You can modify basic styling properties like colors, delete items, or activate the side panel for more options. To display the side panel, choose the option that starts with “Format” (i.e. Format Data Series…).

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Chart Shortcut

You can add/remove elements, apply predefined styles and color sets and filter values using shortcuts. Furthermore, you can see the effects of these options on the fly before actually applying them. For example. in the following image the mouse is on the Data Labels item and the chart labels are shown.

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Ribbon (Chart Tools)

Whenever you activate a special object, Excel adds a new tab(s) to the Ribbon. You can see these chart specific tabs under CHART TOOLS. There are 2 tabs: DESIGN and FORMAT. While the DESIGN tab contains options to add elements, apply styles, modify data and modify the chart itself, the FORMAT tab provides more generic options that are common with other objects.

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Customization Tips

Preset Layouts and Styles

Preset layouts are always a good place to start for detailing your chart. You can find styling options from the DESIGN tab under CHART TOOLS or by using the brush icon on Chart Shortcuts. Below are some examples.

Applying a Quick Layout:

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Changing colors:

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Updating the Chart Style:

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Changing chart type

You can change the type of your chart any time from the Change Chart Type dialog. Although you can change your chart to any other chart type, in this example we’re going to focus on Area chart variations.

To change the chart type, click on the Change Chart Type items in Right-Click (Context) Menu or DESIGN tab.

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In the Change Chart Type dialog, you can see the options for all chart types with their previews. You can also find the options to add or remove markers, and change line types. Select your preferred type to continue.

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Switch Row/Column

B y default, Excel assumes that vertical labels of your data are the categories, and the horizontal ones are the data series. If your data is reversed, click Switch Row/Column button in the DESIGN tab, when your chart is selected.

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Move a chart to another worksheet

By default, charts are created inside the same worksheet as the selected data. If you need to move your chart into another worksheet, use the Move Chart dialog. Begin by clicking the Mover Chart icon under the DESIGN tab or from the right-click menu of the chart itself. Please keep in mind you need to right-click in an empty place in chart area to see this option.

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In the Move Chart menu, you have 2 options:

  • New sheet: Select this option and enter a name to create a new sheet under the specified name and move your chart there.
  • Object in: Select this option and select the name of an existing sheet from the dropdown input to move your chart to that sheet.

scatter chart