A radar chart compares the values of three or more variables relative to a central point. It’s useful when you cannot directly compare the variables and is especially great for visualizing performance analysis or survey data.
Here’s a sample radar chart, so you can see what we’re talking about. It’s likely you’ve run across them before, even if you didn’t know that’s what they were.
Creating Radar Charts in Excel is straightforward. In this article, we’ll show you how to create two types of Radar Chart: a regular chart (like the one above) and a filled chart (like the one below, which fills in the areas instead of just showing the outlines).
The Sample Data
Let’s first take a look at the sample data we’ll be using for our examples.
We have three trainers: Graham, Barbara, and Keith. We’ve assessed them in five different categories (Knowledge, Delivery, and so on) and our Excel table contains those ratings.
Create a Radar Chart in Excel
In this first example, we will create a Radar Chart that shows the assessment of all three trainers.
Select all the cells, including the row that contains the names and the column that contains the assessment titles. Switch to the “Insert” tab and then click the “Waterfall Chart” button.
You can choose from three Radar Charts from which to pick. Choose the first Radar Chart option for this example. (The second option just adds markers to the values on the lines; the third option fills the chart, and we’ll be looking at that one a bit later.)
Now that you’ve inserted the chart into the worksheet, you can begin to make some improvements to it.
Enter a Chart Title
Select the chart title and then type a new title. As you type, the text will appear in the Formula Bar.
When you press Enter, your chart will have a new title.
Move the Legend
For another change, we could move the legend from above the chart to the right.
When the chart is selected, you’ll see four buttons hovering at its top right. Click the “Chart Elements” button at the top, and then hover your mouse over the “Legend” option. You’ll see an arrow to the right. Click that and then click the “Right” option on the menu that appears.
Modify the Radar Chart Axis
To give our Radar chart a greater impact, and more data clarity, we will modify the axis to begin at three instead of zero.
Click the “Chart Elements” button again, hover over the “Axes” option, click the arrow that appears next to it, and then select “More Options.”
The Format Axis pane appears on the right. We want to edit the “Minimum” setting under the “Bounds” section, so click that field and type “3” there.
The radar chart updates immediately and now that we’ve increased the minimum Bounds value, you can more clearly see the differences in the assessments of the three trainers.
This example gives us a nice view of which trainers excel at which qualities, and also how rounded their skill sets are.
Create a Filled Radar Chart
For a second example, we will create a filled radar chart for just one of the trainers. We will use Keith for this example.
First, select the range of cells that you need. In our example, we want the range A1:A6 and the range D1:D6 as shown below. To do this, hold the Ctrl key while you select each additional cell you want to add to your selection.
Now head to Insert > Waterfall Chart > Filled Radar.
When you create a radar chart using only one data series, the axis does not start from zero the way it did in our previous example. Instead, the minimum bound will be the lowest number in the range of cells you selected. In our case, the minimum bound is 4.4—one tick below Keith’s minimum score.
This chart helps you visualize how strong Keith is in each of the assessed qualities.
Note that if we were creating more than one radar chart (like, say, we wanted to show a separate chart for each of our trainers), we would want to make sure the axis ranges are consistent so that the data presentation is not misleading. So, for example, we would set the minimum bound to be a bit below the lowest ranking of any trainer and the maximum bound to be a bit higher than the highest ranking of any trainer. You could even remove the axis itself to reduce clutter on the chart.
Creating radar charts in Excel is simple, but getting the most out of them can require some extra attention. They can be a useful addition to your Excel reports in the future.
Radar charts are a great way to visualize two-dimensional data and show the differences between sub-groups. Think of them as a line chart that’s been wrapped around a central point, where the y-axis of the line chart starts from the central point and extends upwards. The lines will also wrap around the central point and meet up again where the “end” of the line chart meets the “beginning”. I’ll show you a super-easy way to make them in Excel.
Though, don’t forget you can easily create a radar chart using Displayr’s free online radar chart maker!
We’ll need some data.
First thing’s first – we can’t create a chart without some data. I’ve got some aggregated data in a table already that shows what people’s preferred cola is by age categories. Here’s what it looks like:
Some differences are noticeable already in the table (Diet Pepsi doesn’t seem to be doing too well!), but other differences are not so easy to spot.
. to make our radar chart
To turn this into a radar chart, all I need to do is select the data on the work-sheet (i.e. from A1 to G7), and in the ribbon, click the radar chart drop-down in the Insert > Charts part of the menu. This will create a basic radar chart in the spreadsheet for you.
Customizing your radar chart.
This chart isn’t particularly pretty, and there’s a few things we can do to improve its appearance. First, let’s make it a little bigger, and move the legend to the side. To increase the size, simply select the whole chart, and click-and-drag one of the circular nodes along the outer edge of the chart itself. Next, go to Chart Tools > Design > Add Chart Element > Legend > Right. This will move the legend to the right of the chart, so that the good stuff takes up the maximum amount of space inside the overall chart container.
. and making it pretty
We can make it even easier to read: let’s reduce the decimal points down to none. Select the same data that you selected before we created the radar chart again. Then, in the ribbon, go to Home > Number and click the button with the blue arrow pointing towards a 0 on the right-hand side. This reduces the number of decimals that show in your input data, which updates the chart directly.
The middle of the chart is still a little messy though, and the scale points (percentages) overlap with a lot of my data series. Let’s simplify these even further by double-clicking the column of percentage points in the chart. The Format Axis pane will open on the right, and I can specify the number of units I would like to use here. Under Axis Options > Units > Major I’ll use 0.2 instead of 0.1. The chart will update with the percentage points set at intervals of 20. After these steps, here’s what I have:
I can do one more thing to make the chart easier to understand. Let’s tie in the series in the chart with the brand colors. Most likely your chart will have data about something completely different, but do consider common color associations. Off-set color choice with ease of reading the chart. You don’t want too many colors that look similar to one another to avoid confusion.
To change the color of one of the series in my chart, click the line itself to select it, then over on the right, under Format Data Series select the fill bucket icon, then Line > Color. In the Colors dialogue select the color you want to use or type its RGB values. I ran into trouble here, because the color palettes of Coca Cola and Pepsi are quiet similar, so some inspiration was gathered from the cherry-flavored variety of Pepsi. Here’s the final product:
Filled radar charts
There are more options in Excel to experiment with. For example, we can turn our radar chart into a filled radar chart. This will only work if you have a few series of data, and your colors are set to have a high level of transparency. Because of overlapping series, it quickly becomes difficult to read. Here’s the same chart again, including all the same series from before, but presented as a filled radar chart with a color transparency of 85%:
As you can see, it becomes difficult to distinguish the smaller central series from the others, and so the more series you have, the less useful this sort of chart becomes. Best to stick to three or fewer series to make this easily read.
Ready to move beyond Excel? There are other ways to create visualizations that offer more advanced options and flexibility. Check out more visualization ideas!