Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Using Graphics to Represent Data Series.

Using Graphics to Represent Data Series

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 6, 2019)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Excel is great at creating all sorts of charts from your data. You can even customize the charts to your heart's content. One of the customizations you can make is to replace the regular bars (in a bar chart) with your own graphics. For instance, you might have a small graphic of a house that you want to use for the bars. This could be great if you wanted to use "stacked" houses to represent, for instance, housing starts in an area.

To use your own graphics in place of Excel's built-in bars, follow these steps if you're using Excel 2007 or Excel 2010:

  1. Create your bar chart as usual.
  2. Right click on one of the data series bars in the chart. Excel displays a Context menu.
  3. Choose Format Data Series from the Context menu. Excel displays the Format Data Series dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Fill option is selected at the left of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Fill options of the Format Data Series dialog box.

  6. Click Picture or Texture Fill. The options in the dialog box are expanded to reflect your choice.
  7. Under Insert From, click File. Excel displays the Insert Picture dialog box, which is very similar to a standard Open dialog box.
  8. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the picture you want to use.
  9. Click on Insert. Excel closes the Insert Picture dialog box and redisplays the Format Data Series dialog box.
  10. Choose how you want the graphic to be applied to the bar. (I like to choose Stack And Scale With and then specify how to many units each picture represents.)
  11. Click on OK in each open dialog box to close them.

If you are using Excel 2013 or a later version, the steps are a bit different because Microsoft did away with the Format Data Series dialog box and replaced it with a task pane. Here are the steps:

  1. Create your bar chart as usual.
  2. Right click on one of the data series bars in the chart. Excel displays a Context menu.
  3. Choose Format Data Series from the Context menu. Excel displays the Format Data Series task pane at the right side of the chart.
  4. In the task pane click the Fill & Line icon; it looks like a spilling paint bucket.
  5. Expand the Fill options by clicking the small triangle next to the Fill heading. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Fill options of the Format Data Series dialog box.

  7. Click the Picture or Texture Fill radio button. The options in the dialog box are expanded to reflect your choice.
  8. Under Insert From, click File. Excel displays the Insert Picture dialog box, which is very similar to a standard Open dialog box.
  9. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the picture you want to use.
  10. Click on Insert. Excel closes the Insert Picture dialog box.
  11. Choose how you want the graphic to be applied to the bar. (I like to choose Stack And Scale With and then specify how to many units each picture represents.)
  12. Make other settings changes, as desired, so the graphic appears just as you want it.
  13. Close the Format Data Series task pane.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6156) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Using Graphics to Represent Data Series.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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