How-to Easily Create a Stacked Clustered Column Chart in Excel

Create a Stacked Clustered Column Chart in Excel

There is one type of chart that is always requested, however, Excel doesn’t offer this type of chart.  What could it be?SNAGHTML10b82c93

Excel does not offer a Clustered Stacked Column chart, nor does it offer a Clustered Stacked Bar chart.   Excel offers a Clustered Column chart type and a Stacked Column chart type, but it doesn’t offer the combination of these two charts.  Same goes for a Clustered Stacked Bar chart.

What does Clustered Stacked Column Chart show?

Well a clustered stacked column chart would allow you to group your data (or cluster the data points) but use it in conjunction with a stacked column chart type.

Here is what a Clustered Stacked Column Chart would look like:image

Here is what a Clustered Stacked Bar Chart would look like:image

Why doesn’t Microsoft Excel offer these types of charts?  I don’t know, but they are commonly requested by users.  I this tutorial, I will show you how to make a Clustered Stacked Column Chart, but the technique is the same when creating a Clustered Stacked Bar Chart.  The only difference is that you will choose a stacked bar chart instead of a stacked column chart.  Other than that, everything else is exactly the same.


The Breakdown

1) Create a Chart Data Range

2) Create Stacked Column Chart or Stacked Bar Chart

.     (Note: this tutorial will show only the Stacked Column Chart Type but the techniques are the same)

3) Switch Row/Column

4) Change Column Gap Width

5) Change Vertical Axis

6) Change White Fill Series to a Color of White

7) Remove the White Fill Label from the Legend



1) Create a Chart Data Range

This is the critical step in making an EASY Stacked Clustered Column Chart.  There are other ways to create this Excel chart type, but they are not easy and usually confuse people.

What my solution involves is using Multi-level Category Labels as your Horizontal Axis format.  SNAGHTML10c3e3e0

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Multi-level categories is the key.  You can check out other examples of charts that I have created with Multi-level Category Labels here:

Case Study Solution – Mom Needing Help on Science Fair Graphs/Charts

This chart is going to compare the advertising spend on two different products in four categories for both budgeted numbers and actual numbers.

So here is how we want to set up our data:image

As you can see, I have 2 products.  Then I have a separate line for the budgeted advertising dollars and the actual advertising spent.  There are 4 categories of the budget and expenditures related to Radio, Print, Television and Internet.  You will also see a chart data series on the right called White Fill.  This is used to create a blank between the clusters.  You can check out a post with a similar trick here:

How-to Make a Wall Street Journal Horizontal Panel Chart in Excel

I am going to spend the bulk of this post here, so lets examine the way that I have set up the data.

The first row of the data contains the items that we want to appear in the legend as the categories of our stacked columns.image

The next few rows represent our the first section of our first Stacked Clustered data group.  This will be for Product 1 and we have 2 rows, 1 that represents the budgeted advertising dollars and one that represents the actual advertising dollars for all 4 categories (radio, print, TV and internet.image

The biggest thing to remember here is that we have created a Multi-level Category.  We have done this in Column A.  Notice that A3 has the Product name, but there is nothing in A4.  What this does is create a grouping or Multi-level Category for the chart for the first product.  Here is what it will look like in the final chart:image

Notice how it creates a grouping for Product 1 and has subcategories for the budget vs actual numbers.

The next row appears to be a blank row.  It is mostly blank except in 2 cells.  In cell G5, I have put the value of the highest horizontal gridline that I want to display in the graph.  image

Also, in cell A5, I have put in a Space.  Just a simple space with your keyboard.  I put a space in cell A5 so that the Multi-level Categories in Excel will put a line from the chart to the bottom of the horizontal axis labels.

Here it is with a space                                         and                        without a space

image                              image

See how the grouping for Product 1 is tight around the budget and actuals vs on the right when it spans across the empty space?  The space is important to tell Excel where the first Multi-level Category ends.

Finally, the last area of the chart data range is our next advertising expenditures grouping for Product 2.image

2) Create Stacked Column Chart or Stacked Bar Chart

Now that you have set up your data, you can create your chart.  Highlight the range from A2:G7 and then choose the Stacked Column chart from the Column button on the Insert ribbon.image

Your chart should now look like this:image

3) Switch Row/Column

Now our chart isn’t in the right format that we want.  We wanted the Product and Budget vs Actual labels on the horizontal axis, not the advertising groups.  We can can fix this by selecting the chart and then choose the Switch Row/Column button from the Design ribbon.image

If you don’t know why Excel is doing this, please check this post:

Why Does Excel Switch Rows/Columns in My Chart?

After you have done this, your chart should now look like this:image

4) Change Column Gap Width

This is looking very close to what we want.  Now lets make the groupings appear more closely related.  We can do this by changing the Gap Width from the Format Series Dialog Box.  You can get to these options by right clicking on any data series in the chart and then selecting “Format Data Series” from the pop up menu.image

Then change the Gap Width from the Series Options to your desired size.  In this case, I am going to change the gap width to 25%.  SNAGHTML11929651This will make the clustered stacked columns move closer together so that the data can be compared more easily.  Here is what your chart should look like now:image

5) Change Vertical Axis

I don’t like the default vertical axis maximum that Excel sets for us.  I would like to change it to something that is closer to my data.  Right click on the vertical axis and then choose “Format Axis” from the pop up menu.image

Then from the Format Axis dialog box in the Axis Options, change the Minimum to 0 and the Maximum to 701 as you see here:SNAGHTML119ef581

Your resulting chart should now look like this:image

6) Change White Fill Series to a Color of White

We are almost done.  Now we added an additional series called White Fill that will create even more separation between the 2 different clustered stacked column chart.  So to make it do this, we need to right click on the White Fill column and choose the “Format Data Series…” from the pop up menu.image

Then, from the Format Data Series dialog box, go to the Fill options and then change the Fill choice to Solid Fill and change the Fill Color to White. SNAGHTML119b7644

Your chart should now look like this:image

7) Remove the White Fill Label from the Legend

Looks great.  We are almost done.  Only one last thing to do.  We need to remove the “White Fill” legend entry.  We can do this pretty quick and easily by first selecting the chart, then select the legend and then finally selecting the “White Fill” legend entry.  Now it should look like this:image

Once you have the “White Fill” legend entry selected, simply press the delete key.  Your final chart will now look like this:image

This is how you can create a very simple and easy Clustered Stacked Column Chart.  Check the link below to see this tutorial in action in a video demonstration.


Free Excel Chart Template File Download



Video Demonstration

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  1. Hi

    I have followed these instructions and all works well except for the multi-level categories. When I format the axis there is no option for multilevel categories; it has disappeared. I am using Excel 2010. Please help. Thanks

  2. Hi, the video was very helpful. I’m using Excel 2011 on Mac and I can’t figure out how to switch the rows and columns. When I use the transpose button it does not change the axes appropriately.

    thank you for your help!

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  4. Hey!
    Great stuff!
    How can I make this kind of charts in Excel 2003? I’ve looking for this in several websites but so far I haven’t had luck.

    • Hi Omar,

      You should be able to create this same chart in Excel 2003, but the steps may be slightly different in order of operation. However, I am pretty sure that multi-level categories for the horizontal axis are available in Excel 2003. I don’t have a current version of that platform, but may get one soon to show you how. Let me know if you figure it out first. Steve=True

  5. Hi Steve,
    I just watched this subject video on Youtube and it helped me out tremendously! Thank you do much! I just had one question – is there a way to make the bottom axis label, in your example the one that says “Product 1”, appear at an angle, without having the other part of the label be angled? If not I wouldn’t mind if both were angled but when I try to go in and set it at an angle it only angles the upper part (in your example the “Bdgt” and “Act”. I can’t get the label below it to change. Any assistance you can give would be greatly appreciated!
    Many thanks, CJ

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  7. Hi, thanks for posting the video on Youtube! This method really helped me out with a project.
    One problem though: I created the chart in Excel 2013 and sent it to a coworker who has Excel 2007 and the chart didn’t display properly – the bars were crunched and it appears that the X axis switched to the Y axis. I tried clicking the Switch Row/Column option, but it isn’t clickable. I also tried sending it in 97-03, but had the same result.

  8. Great tutorial, makes me look like an excel all-star when using these charts. Once question though around formatting. My top level category’s (product 1 and 2 in your example) text is all overlapping, or so small it’s unreadable. Is there anyway to increase the size of the axis text box so that I can increase the size of the text without it overlapping? (similar to making the key box larger to accommodate larger text keys?) Thanks

  9. I have an interest in creating matrix using excel 2007. I could you someone point me to a site with user friend examples.

    • Hi Namedj. I am not sure I understand your question. Can you please describe the matrix? What do you mean by matrix? Thanks Steve=True

  10. Very useful post. Thanks for sharing it.
    On suggestion if you are using Excel 2013 (not sure if earlier versions has this option), for the WhiteSpace column, you can select ‘no fill’ as an option and then you will not hide the chart lines.

    • Thanks for your comment Gimli. Actually I was using the white series to hide the guidelines. So you point is valid but then I would just omit the series (column) altogether as it would not be needed. Tgan Liu s again for the nice comment. Steve=True

  11. This is great. I must have missed a step, though, because the vertical access in my chart is repeating values i.e. 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3 instead of just 1, 2, 3. Any insight? Thanks

    • Sorry for the late reply bubba, I assume you have a strange number format. Hopefully you figured it out. Thanks

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  13. I had posted my question in another tutorial, but it’s better here. Sorry about the repost!

    Question framed using the example above: could I put Bdgt. on the primary axis and Act. on the secondary axis?

    My issue: I have clustered two stacked columns for each month in the year – one column is dollar value of purchases and the other is the number of purchases. Stacking captures the purchase type (service vs product). The each purchase is very high dollar value while there aren’t that many total purchases in a given month so the dollar value bar is much bigger than the number bar. In fact the number bar barely shows up on the chart. Is there anyway to put dollar value on the primary axis and number of purchases on the secondary axis so the info can be displayed better?

  14. Thank you for the well done video – easy to understand and implement. I am framing my question using the above example:

    I would like to make the same chart but with different categories for each product. I would like to have the categories ‘internet’, ‘tv’, ‘print’, ‘radio’ for product one but ‘books’, ‘tape’, for product two – I actually have three products but the point is the same. Can you provide any guidance?

    • Hi AMA, sorry for the late reply. I am sure you figured it out by now, but the concept is the same. Good luck

  15. Thank you very much for the help. I am not one for tutorials but I was able to follow your instructions and now have the results I was looking for. Thanks again…

  16. Hi Steve
    I followed your u tube video and it worked out perfectly. What I am wondering is can you add a percentage data label? I can do the standard one but when I go to select the percentage range it doesn’t work, I also tried selecting just the cells that I want to match the data and that doesn’t work?
    Any ideas?


  17. Thanks a lot for this great tutorial! I am processing WHO/UNICEF data for a report and was wondering how they come up with their graphs.

    Now I know!

  18. Steve, thank you so much! I have been photoshopping my charts to get the result I needed, now it will save me tons of time in the future and for my current task!

  19. I have noticed that if I have a lot of data in the table that the graph does not come out correctly, but if I select the first few columns as the data, create the graph, click on the graph and then use the blue lines that form a box around the selected data, I am able to drag the blue line to the right, selecting all the data, and the graph is correct. Hope this helps someone. Took me a little thinking time to discover this work around.

  20. Amazing tutorial! The clear instructions followed by pictures of each step made it so easy for me to create the graph for work. Thank you so much!!

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  22. Thanks for the tutorial. what if I don’t have my data in this format. I have my budget an actuals horizontally across categories, not vertically. Can I use data in this format to create this chart. Thanks.

    • It should work. You just will may have to Switch your Rows/Columns. Good luck and you are welcome. Thanks for the great comment.

  23. I was able to make my chart as per our instructions, but I have just one question regarding removing the fill from the white fill bar. It also removes the grid lines in the background. Is there a way to get the grid lines back into the chart once the bar is removed?

    • Hi Marci, just click on the chart, then layout, then gridlines then Horizontal gridlines. They should return. Strange that removing a data series would remove the gridlines. Never seen that before.

  24. That’s just great, I am able to create chart with this tutorial. The Microsoft Excel is very vast and very difficult to master. Thanks for sharing such tutorial.

  25. Perfect! Wish I’d found this before I spent all morning trying to figure it out myself! It worked perfectly on my Mac. Thanks!

  26. This is really great and works perfectly – I just had to reshuffle my data so it was laid out exactly as you had it. Thanks for a really great tutorial 🙂 super useful.

  27. Thank you for sharing this skill.
    A little tip that set transparency to 100% seems better than fill white color to the “White Fill” series.

    • Thanks Peter. The white fill series is technically unnecessary. It was just the way I liked to put in additional separation. Thanks for the comment.

  28. Hi Steve,

    Do you have a way to create an [actual vs demand] chart of departmental (internal) against total (internal & external) calls plus responded & received emails as overlapped monthly columns?

    Thank you in advance.


  29. Thanks, very useful! A slight improvement would be to replace the number in the “white fill” column (701) with “=na()” to eliminate the gap in the unit guide lines.

    • Thanks Nathan, the white fill column was to actually create a gap and hide the lines 🙂 personal preference really. You can remove the column, data and steps entirely as you see fit. Thanks for thinking it is useful.


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