Pie charts are one of the most widely used charts used for data visualization because they are easy to read and understand. Pie charts are a type of circular graph, which is divided into slices (portions). And each slice (portions) represents a percentage of the overall total amount.

Unlike line graphs or bar charts, we can only use a single data series in a pie chart. Column charts are used for comparing data across categories and line charts are used for showing trends in a data series over time while pie charts are mainly used for showing the relative shares of categories in a total.

In this article, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for creating and customizing a pie chart in Microsoft’s Excel.

Creating a Pie Chart in Excel

To make a pie chart, first, you must set up your data in a basic table. The table should be in a basic format with the first column containing the labels and the second column containing the values.

For example, we are going to create a pie chart that represents the big cat population in the wild (see below).

Once you created a data set, select the entire data set.

Then go to the ‘Insert’ tab, and click on the ‘Pie Chart’ icon in the Charts group.

Choose your pie chart type in the drop-down. When you hover your cursor over a chart type, you can read a description of the chart and you can also see the preview of the chart. We’re choosing a 2-D pie chart for our example.

The result will look like this:

Customizing/Formatting a Pie Chart in Excel

Once you created a pie chart, you can modify/format almost every part of the pie chart. Let’s see how you can customize your pie chart and make it more attractive.

Formatting Data Labels

You can add chart elements, change chart style and edit chart filters using the three icons that appear beside the chart or by using the Design tab in Excel.

Click on the floating plus icon (Chart Elements) beside the chart to add data labels. Then click ‘Data Labels’ and select what kind of data label you want.

You can also add data labels and other chart elements from the ‘Add Chart Elements’ option in the ‘Design’ tab.

You can change the location of chart legends and chart title in the pie chart. Click on the ‘Chart Elements’ icon, then click ‘Legend’ and select where you want your chart legend to appear in the chart. Do the same thing for the chart title.

Right-click anywhere on the data series and click ‘Format Data Labels’.

Here, you can change data label sizes, alignment, colors, effects, and label texts. You can even set what your data label should contain. Right now, the example chart has population value as labels, but we can change that to percentage.

And the Populations numbers will be changed to percentage.

Formatting Legend in a Pie Chart

To format the legend of a pie chart, right-click on the legend and click ‘Format Legend’.

The Format Legend pane will open up on right side of the Excel where you can legend colors, effects, position and text designs.

Changing Style and Color of the Pie Chart

Click on the brush icon next to the chart and you can change the style of your chart from the drop-down options.

Click on the ‘Color’ tab and you can change the color of the slices from a collection of color palettes.

Formatting Data Series

A collection of data points (slices) is called a Data Series. To format the data series, right-click anywhere on the slices and select ‘Format Data Series’.

On the Format Data Series pane, switch to the ‘Series Options’ tab, here, you can rotate the pie chart by adjusting the angle of the first slice. Click and drag the ‘Angle of the first slice’ slider to rotate the chart.

Exploding a Pie Chart

You can explode your pie slices too. On the ‘Series Options’ tab, and drag the ‘Pie Explosion’ slider to increase or decrease gaps between the slices.

Now, the slices will appear exploded.

You can also explode your slices by just clicking anywhere on the slices and dragging the cursor.

Exploding a Single Slice of the Pie Chart

Sometimes, you want to draw viewers’ attention to a particular slice of a pie, you can do that by pulling out one slice from the rest of the pie chart.

Select the particular slice by double-clicking on it and drag it away from the center using the mouse.

The result is shown below.

Formatting a Data Point in Excel

You can customize each individual data point (slice) in the pie just as you can format the whole data series. To format a data point, select the slice by double-clicking on it and click ‘Format Data Point’ from the drop-down.

You can also add pictures to the background of slices instead of colors to make your pie chart even more attractive.

Add Picture Background to Pie Chart

In the Format Data Point pane, switch to the ‘Fill & Line’ tab and select the ‘Picture or texture fill’ option under the Fill menu. Then, click the ‘File’ button to choose a picture from your computer or click ‘Clipboard’ to copy a picture from your clipboard, or choose ‘Online’ to find a picture from the internet.

See, now that looks better, isn’t it. Then, repeat the steps for each slice. You can also add background to any part of the pie chart.

Here’s how the finished version of the chart will look after a adding picture to every slice.

That’s how you make a pie chart in Excel.