Adding a Background Graphic to a Microsoft Excel 2010 Chart

Creating charts in Excel 2010 is pretty straightforward. Select your data, choose your chart type, and presto, you have a basic chart. While the three tabs you see after you create that chart might seem a bit overwhelming, they give you a whole lot of flexibility for getting your chart the way you want. Let’s take a look at adding a background graphic to the chart.

Here’s a basic Column chart:

Add a title and a chart style (in this case, Style 26) and you’ve added some visual interest (for some reason, only known to Microsoft, this is one of the few times that Live Preview doesn’t seem to work)

Not bad, but suppose you’d like to include a graphic as the chart’s background. You can use clipart, a photo, or, even better, your company’s logo. Since I don’t have your company’s logo, I’ll just use clipart.

  1. Select your chart (the Chart Tools context ribbons only show when the chart is selected).
  2. On the Chart Tools: Format tab, in the Current Selection group, make sure Chart Area is selected (or select it from the drop down).
  3. In the Current Selection group, click Format Selection.
  4. In the Format Chart Area dialog box, select Picture or texture fill from the radio buttons.
  5. Your options are File, Clipboard, or Clip Art. Navigate to the image you want and click OK or Insert. In this case, I selected Clip Art and searched on printing.
  6. Click Insert (or OK for Clip Art)
  7. If your image shows up in the background, but not behind the chart:
    1. In the Current Selection group, select Plot Area.
    1. In the Shape Fill group, select No Fill. You selection will appear in the background.

  8. At this point, your image may very overwhelm your chart. For clarity sake, you’ll want increase the transparency of the background image.
    1. In the Current Selection group, select Chart Area.
    2. Select Format Selection.
    3. At the bottom of the Format Chart Area dialog box, change the Transparency. The closer you get to 100, the more faded out the image will be (the image below is set to 80% transparency). Click Close.

The key to adding any background image to your chart is making sure that image is not obscuring the actual chart data. A background image (such as your logo), can add a lot, but you shouldn’t lose sight of what you’re actually presenting.

Since Microsoft Office supports Charting functions in pretty much all of its applications, you can use the same technique in Word, PowerPoint and even Outlook if you like.

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