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Pictures in Excel Chart Elements

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 by | Filed Under: MS Excel

So, when you’re working with charts in MS Excel are you looking for a way to make your audience take notice?

I’d bet that by now you’ve tried just about every color combination you can think of to give your creation a look that grabs attention.

If this is you and you’re looking for yet another way to make those charts “pop” in the eyes of the viewer then may I suggest you add a few pictures?

No, I’m not suggesting that you simply put a picture or two in the corners of the chart… I’m actually suggesting that you change the elements of the chart into pictures.

Maybe turning something like this:


Into this:



Yeah, I thought so. Let’s get started.

Obviously, you’ll need to create an Excel chart. (This works on most charts – not just the bar charts – but for simplicity’s sake I’ll just refer to chart bars even though it applies to other shapes like pieces of pie charts.)

With that done you’ll need to select one or all of the chart pieces to be changed. For example, to select all bars click on any bar. To select a single bar click once on a bar, wait a second then click again on that same bar.

With the bar(s) selected it’s time to start changing the view.

As expected, I have different instructions depending upon the version of Excel you’re using…

Let’s start with older versions of Excel.

You’ll need to double-click on the selected bar(s).

This will open the Format Data Series dialog box.


Now you need to click the Fill Effects button below the color palette.

At this point you should be looking at the Fill Effects dialog box.


Navigate to the Picture tab and click the Select Picture button.

This will open the same dialog box you see every time you try to locate a file.

Locate the picture file of your choice and click Insert.

Once back in the Fill Effects dialog box click OK, and then click OK one more time to exit back out to your Excel workbook.

You should be looking at a very “pretty” chart with the chosen picture in place of the plain old color schemes.

Now it’s time for my Excel 2007 users.

While you still have the bar(s) to be changed selected you’ll find that the Chart Tools will be available on the Ribbon.

You need to go to the Format tab within the Chart Tools on the Ribbon.


We’re now looking for the Shape Fill button. Choose Picture from the list of options displayed.

This will immediately take you to the same type of dialog box we always use to locate files.

Locate the file that you want and click Insert.

This should take you back out to your workbook where you’ll find the “new” version of your chart.

Obviously there are some limitations to this – pictures will be stretched, shrunk and cropped to fit in the bar or pie piece – therefore you may be unhappy with the results when trying to use complex pictures. Never forget your handy Ctrl + Z to undo a change that you don’t like.

Also, you should keep in mind that while jazzing it up is good, too much will make it difficult to read or even distracting to the viewer.

Basically, choose wisely and you should find that you are quite pleased with the results.

So… if a picture is worth a thousand words then this trick must be worth at least double that… right?

~ April

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