By now everyone and their grandmother must have known about how Republican National Committee has spent $ 150,000 on Sarah Palin’s clothing and make up. I am a big fan of clothes. So much that I wear them everyday. But not all of us have a committee or fund raisers to dress up ourselves, none the less for our charts and reports.
That is where you can find Pointy Haired Dilbert useful. I am going to share with you all 5 simple yet effective ways to dress up your charts without spending a penny (or not more than few minutes of time).
1. Use Gradients, Pattern Fills instead of Colors
Select the data series you want to fill with gradient fill (or patterns) and right click, select “format data series”. In the dialog click on “Fill effects” and navigate to gradient tab (or patterns).
Note: go easy on gradients as they may not always gel well with other objects on your slide / report.
2. Use Images to Fill instead of Colors
If using gradients is playing with colors, you can use images to fill the bar (or pie or area) of the chart to decorate your charts. One of the good uses of this technique is to fill each series element with the image of what it represents. For eg. if you are showing sales of your products, fill each bar with small images of your product.
Just right click on the data series element, select format, and in the fill effects dialog, navigate to either “picture” tab. Don’t forget to click on “stacked” option. Otherwise excel would try to stretch your image to fit in the fill area and it looks ugly.
3. Add Text to Chart Area to Grab User Attention
This is one of my favorite technique. You can grab user attention using call outs placed on the chart.
Just select the chart and start typing anything. You will see a new text area added to your chart (the text area is bound to chart, so when you copy paste the chart even this text will be pasted). Now format the text area using drawing tool bar to a call out or star or something nice.
4. Use Bold and Creative Colors
Just go to Colorlovers or Smashing Magazine. Get some design inspiration on which colors to use. Now once you have the colors, just create 1×1 pixel images for each color in your favorite image editor. Then specify these images as fill images (learn more about overcoming 56 color limitation in excel). You now have excel charts that are bold and colorful.
5. Replace the Labels with Company Logos
Instead of using those boring labels to describe what each element on your chart means, you can use images to the story. See how you can yummify a simple “break-up of breakfast snacks in the last 30 days” chart.
Select the chart. Now go to Menu > Insert > Picture > From File and select your company logos or product images or something that conveys what the label does. Adjust the images and re-size them. 🙂
Of course, you can always download these 73 beautiful excel chart templates for free and become a formatting rock star overnight.
All these tips are tested on Excel 2003. Palin’s Image is from Wikipedia.