Clustered and stacked bar charts in excel. Possible!

How to create a clustered and stacked column bar chart in excel If you have ever tried to build a chart like this in excel, you are out of luck.

Excel just does not do it. What you see is a clustered and stacked column bar chart. With excel you can have either clustered column bar charts, or stacked column bar charts, but not both.

If you are a super advanced excel guru, you can get another set of series show on a secondary axis, but that’s pretty much it. It looks ugly and confuses the hell out of anybody looking at such a chart.

Bill Jelen from MrExcel attempted to address this limitation in his podcast. Kudos to Bill for making the Impossible probable, but the workaround is arduous, the resulting data table is out of whack and the legend is confusing as hell. I think it is a good workaround overall given you can’t build a clustered stacked chart in excel.

This called for an outside the box solution:)

In order to get a clustered and stacked bar chart, one could create two stacked column charts referring to their respective datasets and then just superimpose them on top of each other.

Here’s how to get a stacked and clustered column bar chart done in excel (tested on Excel 2011 for Mac):

  1. Create your first stacked bar chart.
  2. Specify major and minor axis ticks, so they are consistent between the charts you are going to merge later. (You can have as many clusters as you wish, we will work with just two for clarity).
  3. Adjust series colors, order, fonts, and anything else you might want see in your chart to make it perfect.
  4. By now you have a perfect stacked column bar chart that is missing your desired second (or third …) cluster column. Select the entire chart and copy it.
  5. Paste your chart and adjust the corresponding datasets to refer to the other cluster of data. Now you have your second cluster, what’s left is to make it transparent and align with the first one. Make sure the axis are aligned in values.
  6. In your second chart, remove lines and fill from plot area, axes and legend. By now you should see bars from your first chart beaming through your second chart. We are almost there.
  7. Align the second chart with the first. Legend might need separate adjustment.
  8. Group the aligned charts.
  9. Add any text, lines, comments on top of the grouped object. Group the resulting work.
  10.  You are done!

Good luck and get yourself a preview of the 2013 excel, it is awesome!


About The Author

Dmitry Shesterin

Dmitry has done everything. From sales and marketing in mobile telecommunications and printing (in Russia and Germany) to sales engineer and marketing lead (at Faronics). Dmitry has an unrivaled love of Excel and his sense of humor resembles Ambrose Bierce, his favorite writer.

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