Blog Archive

Excel Tip: Inserting Background Image in Chart

Tony sends this chart and asks if it can be done in Excel.
It sounded like a good challenge for a lazy Sunday morning. So here we go. (Posting it on Monday).
How to create a column chart with background image in Excel ?
Now I could not get an oil rig photo or that data. So I made up few numbers and used a photo of Flinders street station I took when I was in Melbourne last year.

Step 1: Arrange the data.

Arrange the data like this.
Arrange data like this - column chart with background image in Excel
Step 2: Create a column chart
Select the data, insert a stacked column chart (why not a regular column chart?, you will understand in a minute).
You will get this.
Create a simple column chart -  - column chart with background image in Excel

Step 3: Set up image as background for chart's plot area

Select chart's plot area. Press CTRL+1.
Choose picture or texture fill and select the file with image you want.
Fill chart's plot area with an image -  - column chart with background image in Excel

Step 4: Add dummy max-series

In your data, add a column which gives the difference between column values & axis maximum. For our test data, I choose 1,400 as axis maximum, so the dummy series values are,
Dummy data series -  - column chart with background image in Excel
Now add this series to chart.

Step 5: Format the chart

Now, we are almost done. Our chart looks like below. We just need to format it.
Final chart before formatting -  - column chart with background image in Excel
  1. Select the columns (any series) and press 1
  2. Adjust gap width to 0%
  3. Fill the dummy series with a chosen background color.
  4. Make the data series transparent (fill color = no color)
  5. Add borders to data series. Border color should be same as background color.
  6. Adjust the border thickness to 3pts.
  7. Adjust axis maximum to 1,400 (or any value you have selected in Step 4).
  8. Remove grid lines, legend and any un-necessary chart fluff.
Your column chart with background image is ready!
Finalized column chart with background image made using Excel

Note of caution: Go easy with images

The main purpose of a chart is to convey information. By adding a background images, sometimes your chart will be difficult to read. So I suggest you to go easy with background images.

Download Excel workbook with this chart

Click here to download Excel file with this chart and play with it. Examine the chart formatting settings to understand this technique better.
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