How to make a graphic equaliser chart in Excel

This seems to have been a week of Excel challenges for me.  First there was the Metro UI style Excel dashboard challenge from a close friend of mine.  Then yesterday I was asked if I could make a chart that looked like a graphic equaliser to represent some sound readings in a very visual way.  Challenge accepted!

We all know what a graphic equaliser looks like:


My first thought was this should be relatively simple.  All I need is to draw a bar like shape (small thin rectangle) on to the page.  Then create a normal bar chart.  Then copy the bar, press Ctrl+1 and use the contents of the clipboard as the fill, stacked and scaled with 1 bar per unit of data.  Much like what I did to create the arrow chart earlier in the year.

What I actually got was not so pretty:

first attempt

Without an outline, each bar merged into the next, making the graph look exactly like a normal bar chart.  So I put my thinking cap back on and realised that I needed two bars, a white one behind the coloured one to space out the lines.  This time was better, but still quite boring:

second attempt

Then I started formatting.  I removed the Y axis and increased the size of the X axis font.  That’s when I realised that it was completely impossible to read the values without the Y axis.  So I decided to add coloured graduations, by creating a group of 5 coloured bars (four grey bars and 1 blue bar to mark the 5th graduation), again with a white background.  Of course then I had to stack and scale the picture fill by 5 units for the five coloured bars:

third attempt

Now we were starting to cook with gas.  I went back to the internet at this stage and started looking for some great pictures of a graphic equaliser.  I quickly realised that I needed a black background, and perhaps a rainbow gradient with my coloured bars, going from green to red.  This meant having 70 coloured bars with a black background, and again changing the fill to stack and scale to 70 units – a lot of formatting, copying and pasting!  Also, since most of the pictures I saw had a reflection of some sort, I needed to use the camera tool (see this post for more details) to get a realistic image, which will of course update automatically:

final attempt

Just in case, I also created a bar chart version as well, with different values to see how it would look.   What do you think? The full excel file can be found here.  Enjoy!

Alesandra Blakeston

8 thoughts on “How to make a graphic equaliser chart in Excel

  1. Alesandra

    Very cleaver! I have been thinking about how to create a vertical color gradient within a single chart, with say a blue filled circles represents lower temperature points, yellow or orange representing intermediate temperatures, and dark red representing high temperature points, with the x-axis being time of year. I don’t think I seen this type of a data representation in Excel. Any thoughts? Ted

  2. Hi Alesandra…this is amazing! I come across plenty of charts on my job but I’ve never seen one as cool as this one. I was hoping to use it for some charts I have to prepare but came across an issue. I was trying to have the colour scale upside down so low values are highlighted in red and high values in green. I thought it would be easy and a matter of turning upside the picture but it didn’t work. Do you have any tips on how I can achieve this?
    All the best!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s