How to Make and Customize Pie Charts in Excel

Smartsheet Contributor Diana Ramos on Aug 27, 2018

A pie chart is a tool to display basic statistical information, and is one of the easier charts to make in Excel. Follow these step-by-step instructions to master creating pie charts, along with tips for customizing the chart and variants you can use.

What Is a Pie Chart?

A pie chart, sometimes called a circle chart, is a useful tool for displaying basic statistical data in the shape of a circle (each section resembles a slice of pie). Unlike in bar charts or line graphs, you can only display a single data series in a pie chart, and you can’t use zero or negative values when creating one. A negative value will display as its positive equivalent, and a zero value simply won’t appear.

When creating a pie chart, the description of each section is called the category, and the number connected to the category is called the value. The categories will add up to 100 percent of whatever is being charted, and the relative size of each category is a visual representation of its relation to the whole. Categories shouldn’t overlap. For example, if one category is “Women” and another is “People Over Fifty,” there’s a pretty good chance that there will be women over 50 and therefore, they would be counted twice.


excel pie charts parts of chart examples and samples

Pie charts are not effective if there are more than seven categories, but some of the variations available allow charts to display a couple more categories. Some experts don’t like pie charts because they find it difficult to accurately compare the angles, but adding labels to the data can overcome that issue.

Excel offers a number of variations on the basic pie chart. Steps for creating each are included in the instructions later in this article. The first three options displayed below are listed under the pie chart type, the last is listed under the other type.

Pie of Pie and Bar of Pie: Despite their clumsy names, these clever charts make it easier to view smaller values or subsets of the data that make up the category.


excel pie charts pie of pie example and excel pie charts bar of pie examples and samples

3D Chart: Add depth to a basic pie chart with the 3D option. Depending on the perspective, 3D charts may be misleading because smaller categories may appear larger than they are, so use them with care.


excel pie charts 3d examples and samples

Doughnut Chart: This option looks just like a pie chart, but with a hole in the middle. Doughnut charts can have more than one data series.


excel pie charts doughnut examples and samples

Some Examples of Pie Chart Uses

Pie charts can be used to display a lot of different data sets, including things like factory output by shift, revenue generated by one product compared to total revenue, or water usage by type.


excel pie charts factory output examples and samples


excel pie charts product revenue examples and samples


excel pie charts water usage examples and samples

Some other possible examples are trash vs. recycling, types of pets in a town, price range of products sold, census results, revenues by region, or packages shipped by each carrier.

See how Smartsheet can help you be more effective

Watch the demo to see how you can more effectively manage your team, projects, and processes with real-time work management in Smartsheet.


Watch a free demo

How Do You Create a Pie Chart in Excel?

In this section, we’ll show you the steps to create a pie chart in Excel 2011 for Mac. While the images may differ, the steps will be the same for other versions of Excel, unless they are called out in the text.

  1. Open a blank worksheet in Excel. Enter data into the worksheet and select the data. Remember that pie charts only use a single data series. If you select the column headers, the header for the values will appear as the chart title, and you won’t be able to edit the text.


excel pie charts data highlighted examples and samples
  1. Click Chart > Pie (hovering over the chart types will show brief info about them), and then click Pie


excel pie charts choose chart type examples and samples
  1. The pie chart appears on the worksheet.

Other Versions of Excel: The chart types are listed under the Insert tab. This is the only difference.


excel pie charts examples and samples

If you realize there’s an error in the data, there’s no need to start over. Simply update the data on the worksheet and the chart will automatically adjust to reflect the new data. If you’ve copied the chart to another place (excluding other Microsoft Office program), you’ll need to insert the updated chart into the other program. If the chart has been copied into a Microsoft Office program on the same computer, the chart copy will automatically update.


excel pie charts change value examples and samples

If you only want to display a subset of a long data list, select the data you want to appear in the chart. The rows don’t even have to be contiguous. While the examples used in this article all have data in columns, you can also use data in rows.

How to Read a Pie Chart

Pie charts are easy to read so little explanation is required, but there are a couple things that will make them easier to understand. As mentioned earlier, the data in the chart will always add up to 100 percent. If there are no data labels, hovering the cursor over a category (the official name for a section or slice) will display the corresponding data.


excel pie charts hover examples and samples

Besides being easy to read, pie charts are useful because they show a lot of information in a small space, and they allow an immediate analysis of the relationship among each category — both to the the others and to the whole.

How Do You Make a Pie Chart in Excel 2016?

To create a pie chart in Excel 2016, add your data set to a worksheet and highlight it. Then click the Insert tab, and click the dropdown menu next to the image of a pie chart. Select the chart type you want to use and the chosen chart will appear on the worksheet with the data you selected.

While the steps are the same as shown above (unless noted), the screenshots will vary based on the Excel version you use.

How Do You Add Labels to a Pie Chart?

When you create a pie chart, a legend is automatically included. If want the category names to appear on or near the chart, right-click on the chart and click Add Data Labels….


excel pie charts add data labels add examples and samples

By default, the numerical values are added.


excel pie charts add data labels added examples and samples

To add other labels, such as the categorical values or the percentage of the total that each category represents, right-click on the chart, then click Format Data Labels….


excel pie charts add data labels format data labels examples and samples

Click Labels, and make your selections. Then click OK.


excel pie charts add data labels options chosen examples and samples

Add the series name (the column header for your data) followed by the character that separates each item (a new line, comma, space, colon, or semicolon), and the location where the data labels are displayed.


excel pie charts add data labels options chosen final examples and samples

Click and drag data labels to move them. You can also choose to show the category color next to the label (similar to the legend), and include lines connecting the data labels if they are moved away from the chart. By selecting the other options, such as Shadow, Font, or Fill, you can tweak the appearance of the data labels. Experiment with the options until you find what works.

How to Change the Appearance of a Pie Chart

Quick Layouts, Styles, and Themes

Excel offers Quick Layout and Chart Styles options. Quick Layout is a set of options that you use to format the chart and add elements. Chart Styles are ways to format just the chart. Scroll through them to see if any meet your needs.


excel pie charts quick layouts and chart styles examples and samples

Excel 2016 and versions more recent than 2011 also offer themes, which are a collection of preselected fonts and colors. Changing these themes will affect the default appearance of any pie charts created after selecting the theme. To view available theme elements, click the Page Layout tab, then click Colors or Fonts.

Moving the Chart

To move the chart to another place on the same sheet, simply click on it and drag it to the new position.


excel pie charts move chart examples and samples

To move the pie chart to another sheet in the same workbook, right-click on the chart and select Move Chart…, then either select an existing sheet, or create a new one.


excel pie charts move chart menu examples and samples


excel pie charts move chart options examples and samples

Resizing the Pie Chart

To change the size of the chart area, click on a corner and drag it to see a larger or smaller version.


excel pie charts resize chart examples and samples

Note: There isn’t a way to adjust the size of the chart within the chart area — Excel automatically does that.

Rotating the Pie Chart

To rotate the pie chart (i.e., put a different slice at the top), right-click on the chart, click Format Data Series…, click Options, and enter a value into the Angle of first slice box. You’ll have to experiment to get the chart to look exactly as you envision.


excel pie charts rotate chart menu examples and samples

If the goal is to have a particular slice at the top of the chart, it’s easier to rearrange the order of the rows of data, placing the one you want to appear at the top of the chart in the first row of the data column.

Adding Chart Titles

To add a title to the chart, click Charts in the ribbon, click Chart Layout, click Chart Title, and chose the location.


excel pie charts add title examples and samples


excel pie charts title added examples and samples

To change the appearance of a title, click Charts, click Chart Layout, click Chart Title, then click Chart Title Options…. Here you can change the font style, color, and size, as well as the background of the box and many other options.


excel pie charts change title examples and samples

Pie Chart Legends

As noted earlier, a legend is included by default when the chart is created. To delete the legend, right-click on the legend and then click Delete. To change the appearance of the legend, right-click on it, then click Format Legend…, and make your changes.


excel pie charts format legend examples and samples

If you delete the legend, but want it to reappear, click on the Charts tab, click Chart Layout, click Legend, and then choose where you want to place the legend.


excel pie charts add legend examples and samples

Colors, Fonts and Backgrounds

If the default chart appearance or available themes and quick settings don’t fit your needs, you can change the appearance of the pie slices by applying different fonts and adding a color or texture to the background.

To change the appearance of a pie slice, click on the slice and then double-click it to open the Format Data Point window. Click Fill to change the color, add a texture, or even fill the slice’s space with a picture.


excel pie charts change color examples and samples

Once you’ve added data labels, you can change the size, color, and other appearance factors. Click the data label once, right-click on it, and click Format Text…. The changes made will affect all selected text (i.e. if only one slice’s label is affected, then only that slice’s label will be changed. If you want to change the text on one slice, click on it twice).


excel pie charts format text examples and samples

You can also perform the same action on any other text in the pie chart, such as the legend or a title.

If you don’t like the default background, right-click on an empty space in the chart, and then click Format Chart Area…. Not only can you change the background color, but you can also add textures, gradients, and patterns. You can also change the thickness and color of the chart’s border, and add other effects (such as a drop shadow).


excel pie charts change background examples and samples


excel pie charts background changed examples and samples

Creating Exploding Pies and Exploding Slices

The exploded pie option can be easier to read if there are a lot of values in your data set. If you want to emphasise a particular value, use the exploding slice option.

There are a couple ways to create exploding pies and exploding slices.

  1. Select the Exploded Pie option when creating the chart.


excel pie charts choose exploded examples and samples

2. Add the exploding pie after you create the chart. To create an exploded pie, click and drag any slice, and the chart will adjust.

3. To explode a single slice, click once on the pie to select it, click on the desired slice, and then drag it out of the pie.

Note: If the two clicks are too close together, the Format Data Point window will appear.


excel pie charts exploded slice examples and samples


Additional Pie Chart Formatting Options

There are a variety of ways to customize a pie chart. You can create new categories, sort how the slices appear, and add WordArt.

Resorting By Slice Size
If you want to position the slices based on size (e.g. smallest to largest), sort the original data using Excel’s sorting tool, and the chart will automatically update group the chart slices by size.

Combining Small Slices into an “Other” Category
There are two ways to combine a number of small categories into one “other” category. To do this easily, enter data into Excel but combine the desired numerical values into a single row and name the categorical value “other.”

Below is a more complicated method:

  1. Enter data into Excel with the desired numerical values at the end of the list.

  2. Create a Pie of Pie chart.

  3. Double-click the primary chart to open the Format Data Series window.

  4. Click Options and adjust the value for Second plot contains the last to match the number of categories you want in the “other” category.

  5. Right-click on one section of the secondary chart, click Format Data Point…, click Fill, then click No Fill from the color drop down.


excel pie charts select no fill examples and samples
  1. Repeat this for each slice of the secondary plot.

  2. If you have data labels, remove them from each section of the secondary plot as well.

  3. If there are lines connecting the main chart and the now-invisible secondary chart, right click a line, click Format Series Lines…, click Line, and click No Line from the color drop down.

WordArt is a feature found in Microsoft Office applications. You can use WordArt to give text an artistic look (like the example below).


pie charts excel word art examples and samples

While WordArt can’t be applied to chart elements, you can create them separately and then paste it into the chart as titles or data labels.

Working with Pie Chart Variations

As noted above, there are pie chart variations you can apply when dealing with a lot of information for a category or if you want to break out specific data sets. Here are a few variations you can apply to reveal more data in a pie chart.

Pie of Pie and Bar of Pie Charts
To create a Pie of Pie or Bar of Pie chart, the steps are the same as creating a basic pie chart (with the exception of which chart subtype you choose). Editing the chart is the same as well.


excel pie charts create pie of pie or bar of pie examples and samples


excel pie charts pie of pie and excel pie charts bar of pie examples and samples

When you create a Pie of Pie or Bar of Pie chart, the number of categories in the second plot (the smaller pie or the bar) are chosen by default: It's always the final rows in the data set, and the larger amount of the initial set, the larger number of rows included in the second plot. To change the number of categories in the second plot, right-click on the chart, then click Format Data Series… and change the value in the Second plot contains the last box.


excel pie charts change pie of pie or bar of pie menu examples and samples


excel pie charts change pie of pie or bar of pie examples and samples

You can also change the default series by the value (e.g. numbers lower than five), percent (e.g. all values that are less than 10 percent of the total), or create a custom setting. There’s also a setting to change the size of the second plot relative to the main pie (you can even make the secondary plot larger than the main pie).

To change the distance between the two charts, right-click on the chart, then click Format Data Series… and change the value in the Gap width box.


excel pie charts change gap pie of pie or bar of pie examples and samples

In a pie of pie chart, the smaller pie can also have a slice or the whole chart exploded. Follow the instructions for exploding the main plot.

3D Pie Charts
Like the basic pie chart, you can rotate the 3D pie chart. Instead of rotating one axis, you can rotate the 3D chart on two axes, and also change the viewing angle.

The steps for creating a 3D pie are the same as creating a basic pie, except for what you choose as the subtype of the chart.


excel pie charts 3d pie chart choose examples and samples

There’s even a 3D exploded pie option.


excel pie charts 3d pie chart examples and samples

To rotate the 3D pie, right-click on the chart then click 3D Rotation

  • The X axis value rotates the chart around its axis.

  • The Perspective arrows will tilt the angle of the chart.

  • The Y axis value will have an effect similar to Perspective.

  • The Height value will change the thickness of the chart (deselect Autoscale to change this value).


excel pie charts 3d pie chart rotation options examples and samples

Doughnut Charts
Unlike the other variation mentioned above, a doughnut chart is not under the pie chart type. Instead, to create a doughnut chart, on the Charts tab, click Other, then click Doughnut.


excel pie charts doughnut examples and samples

Other Ways to Create a Pie Chart

If you’re handy with a ruler and compass, you can create a pie chart by hand, but getting proportions of the slices right requires a steady hand and a keen eye. There are other programs that you can use besides Excel, such as IBM SPS. However, the ubiquity of Excel in business environments often makes it a better choice.

You can also create pie charts in PowerPoint and Word, but once the chart is selected, those applications open Excel, so you may as well start in Excel and copy the chart into Word or PowerPoint. See the instructions above in the moving a chart section.

Make Better Decisions, Faster with Charts in Smartsheet

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.




Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

Try Smartsheet for Free Get a Free Smartsheet Demo