Stop Excel Overlapping Columns on Second Axis for 3 Series

Excel Overlapping Columns on Second Axis for 3 Series
We have learned how to Stop Excel Overlapping Columns in a few posts on the site.  A reader had a follow-up question that I thought I would answer here.  Here is the question:
“This is great Steve, thank you!
But, I am wondering if you have three sets of data – two on one y-axis and one on the other. I am trying to add in “Pad” columns but am failing to get them to not overlap.
Say it’s decaf coffee and tea with low values and caffeinated coffee with high values – no stacking.
Any help would be greatly appreciated,
You can find links to the other tutorial and video solutions that Whitney was describing at the bottom of the post.
First let’s revisit the problem.

The Excel Overlapping Columns Problem

Whitney is asking if we have a series of data like this:

Excel Column Chart with 3 Non-Similar Series

Where some of the data is rather large and you cannot distinquish the smaller series, she would like to move the one large series to the secondary axis or right axis.  However, when you move a series to the secondary axis in a Column Chart, you will see Excel Overlapping Columns as shown below:

Stop Excel Overlapping Columns

If you want to know more about why Excel may be Overlapping the Columns, check out this post:

Why is Excel Overlapping Columns When I Move them to the Secondary Axis?

However, what Whitney really wants her Column graph to show is this:

Excel Column Chart with 3 Non-Similar Series

The Breakdown

The technique to fix the Excel Overlapping Column issue, is to remember that Excel is centering the data series along the category labels.  Therefore, you need to have an equal number of series for the primary axis and the secondary axis.

So start by counting the total number of series you will have in your chart.  Then make sure that you have that amount for the primary axis and also the secondary axis.  The Tip and Trick is to make the filler columns equal to zero so that they will not hide the data series you wanted to see.



1) Add Extra Padding Data Series to the Primary and Secondary Columns

Here is a graphic to show you what I mean for this data set:

3 total series are needed for each axis
TeaDecaf CoffeeRegular Coffee

If you count the data series we have 3 total.  That means we will have a total of 3 data series for the primary and also 3 columns of data for the secondary axis.

3 total series are needed primary axis3 total series are needed for secondary axis
TeaDecaf CoffeeBlank (overlaps Regular Coffee)Blank (overlaps Tea)Blank (overlaps Decaf Coffee)Regular Coffee

What you may notice is that we are planning to have blank series that will overlap the both primary and the secondary axis spaces for 3 columns of data.  But we are going to make the ones that overlap other series equal to zero so that they will not display in the Excel Chart.

That is the technique you need to use.  Make sure you have equal columns on box axis, then they will remain the same size as well as not overlap.  But make the extra columns of data are set to zero so that you will not cover over any of the columns that you wish to display.

Now that we have our data modified as you see above (with the extra padding columns) you can create your chart

2) Create Clustered Column Chart

Highlight your data range of the labels and data (not the first row you see above) and go to your Insert Ribbon and click on 2-D Clustered Column Chart

Insert Excel Clustered Column Chart

Your chart should now look like this:

Clustered Column Chart1 on Stop Excel Overlapping Columns


3) Switch Excel Chart Columns/Rows

We really want the months on the horizontal axis in the Excel Chart, so we should switch the Rows and Columns.

Switch Row Columns Button

If you want to learn more on why Excel is doing this, check out this post:

Why Does Excel Switch Rows/Columns in My Chart?

Your chart should now look like this:

Clustered Column Chart2 on Stop Excel Overlapping Columns

4) Move Series to Secondary Axis

Next we need to move each of the data series that needed for the secondary axis.  They are the following series:

Blank (overlaps Tea)Blank (overlaps Decaf Coffee)Regular Coffee

To do that, select the series and press CTRL+1 to bring up the Format Series Dialog box and then pick the Secondary Axis:Move Series to Secondary Axis Dialog Box

If you are having problems selecting the right series to move to the 2nd Axis, check out this post:

How-to Select Data Series in an Excel Chart when they are Un-selectable?

Your chart should now look like this:


Clustered Column Chart3 on Stop Excel Overlapping Columns

5) Delete Chart Legend Entries

The final thing we need to do is to clean up our Legend entries and remove the ones that are not needed.  To do this, simply select your chart, then select the Chart Legend, then select a Legend Entry and then press the delete key on your keyboard.

Your final chart should look like this:

Final Clustered Column Chart on Stop Excel Overlapping Columns


Video Tutorial

See how you can do this in this short video tutorial:


Download File

You can get your own copy of this tutorial to play around with from this free download link:



Related Tutorials

Do you need more help to fix the Excel Overlapping Column issue in your Excel Clustered Column Chart, check out these posts:

Stop Excel From Overlapping the Columns When Moving a Data Series to the Secondary Axis

Stopping Excel Pivot Chart Columns from Overlapping When Moving Data Series to the Second Axis

Now if you watched the video, you will learn that I am not in love with this solution.  So be sure to tune in to the next post to see my more preferred way to display this data in an Excel Chart.



  1. I was able to use your technique with three series, but when I included a fourth, it doesn’t seem to work on that last series. I tried putting the pad column on either side of the fourth series and that didn’t seem to make a difference. Any thoughts on this one?

    • Hi Greg, it depends on what you are trying to do. Many, it probably is an issue with which axis your series is on. I would recommend the following

      Primary Axis = Series 1..Series 2..Gap…….Gap
      Secondary Axis = Gap…….Gap…….Series 3..Series 4

      Your issue may be that your 4th series is not on the right axis or in the right spot.

      Hope this helps. Let me know. Cheer!


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