8 Ways to Make Beautiful Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel

  • 5 min
  • How To Guides
  • By Edouard Ouaknine, 15/01/2020

If you display data badly, the meaning of your data is likely to get lost. It is vital to be able to clearly visualize the data in order for it to be more convincing. Here are 8 easy ways to make your finance charts simple, beautiful and effective! 

Tip #1: Always pick the right chart type

Before you start tweaking design elements, you need to make sure that your data is displayed in the optimal format. Bar, pie, and line charts all tell different stories about your data, you need to choose the best one to tell the story you want. Always order your graph in descending order, or in chronological order so it is simple, easy and clear to understand.

perfect Excel charts UpSlide

Tip #2: Remove Unnecessary Axes

In the ‘before’ chart below we use a bar chart for absolute numbers such as net sales and we use a line to display percentages, for example gross margin. There are two different y-axes, one for the absolute amounts and the other for the percentage. In the ‘after’ chart, you can see that it is much clearer when data labels are displayed on the series itself, instead of using both axes. It is easier to understand and there is more space to display the chart itself.

Clustered Column & Curve 6 Ways To Make Beautiful Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel UpSlide

Tip #3: Distribute bars evenly

By default, thin bars and wide spaces are used in Excel, but for the best design and to make understanding your charts easy, the opposite works best. The actual bars should be wider, and the distance between the bars narrower.

Clustered Column upslide Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel

How to fix gap width in Excel:
  1. Right Click on Series
  2. Choose Format Data Series
  3. Click on Gap Width, you want less white space but enough to see the difference between blocks

Minimize white space in the blocks and in-between the bars, but make the bars wider – the aim is to differentiate between a period and a series.

Tip #4: Remove background lines

As you can see with the Waterfall chart below, there is a massive difference before and after due to slight changes in design.
Graphs allow you to roughly compare data within a set, not dig into it. No one’s looking at your graph to see incremental differences between data points – they want to see general, overarching trends.
To help people focus on those trends, remove the lines in the background of your chart. These lines are unnecessary, unhelpful, and distracting – remove them from your graph to help people focus on the most important parts.

Chart Gif 2 6 Ways To Make Beautiful Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel UpSlide

With UpSlide’s Charts feature it just takes one click to create a Waterfall chart with your branding colors and design. All the steps you would normally take in Excel are automated.

Tip #5: Remove unnecessary styling

Most standard Excel graphs come pre-styled – but these styles often get in the way of communicating information.
Rather than using a variety of different colors, stick to one color that is most synonymous with your brand, to make your data really stand out! In this example below, it’s much better to have vertical lines as you can see the minimum and maximum of the valuation range. Dashes are a good option to display secondary elements (here vertical lines) and they definitely look better in the color of your visual identity.

Football Field final upslide Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel

This is a chart used for valuation methods when assessing the value of a company.

How to add Dashed Vertical Lines:
  1. Right Click and remove horizontal lines (y axis gridline)
  2. Select x axis
  3. Right Click – Add Major Gridlines
  4. Select Gridline and then Format Colour/Dashes/Width

Tip #6: Never use 3D effects

To make data look extra fancy, people will often make bar, line, and pie graphs 3D – but it actually just makes the data harder to read. Because of the way the data is tilted, it gives the reader a skewed perspective of what the data actually reads. Since you’re using data to tell a broad story, you don’t want to weaken your argument due to poor design.
Stacked Bar UPSLIDE 3D

How to remove the 3D styling from your graphs:
  1. Double-click on the bars, lines, or pie sections you’d like to change
  2. Choose “3D Format
  3. Set “Top” and “Bottom” to “None.”

Tip #7: Clean your chart

When you have many periods, you shouldn’t use a marker – it is much better to add an average, min or max to make your data easier to understand. Think also about removing the background lines that distract from understanding the most important elements.

Stock Exchange upslide Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel

Tip #8: Focus on design and style

This area chart is best when you want to show the comparison of elements changing over time.

In the example below, you can see the stock composition changing over three fiscal years. We used only one color hue from our visual identity and we will stick to it in the following pages of our report so our readers can link this color to other charts about stock. Have specific colors linked to specific KPIs throughout your report or presentation whenever your visual identity allows it.

Design-wise: remove redundant labels, get rid of shadows and use white spaces between series.

Area upslide Financial Charts and Graphs in Excel

How to use your Brand Colours in Excel:
  1. Grab the HEX color code of your brand’s colors.
  2. Put that code into this HEX –> RBG color converter.
  3. Under “Fill,” choose “Color” > “More Colors.”
  4. In the popup window, select the second icon from the left with the sliders.
  5. Choose “RGB Sliders,” then input the RGB numbers you found in the beginning

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