Contour Plots in Excel (Table of Contents)
Introduction to Contour Plots in Excel
Contour Plots is the way in which you can represent the three-dimensional surface (having a length(X), Width(Y) and depth/volume(Z)) chart on a two-dimensional plane (i.e. in a plane with X and Y axis only). In this chart, lines are drawn for (x, y) coordinates where the response (z) values are occurring. Contour charts are similar to the surface charts that can be seen from above (any height) and are 2-D charts most of the time. Contour graph can be used when we have two predictors X & Y which have an impact on the response variable Z. The values of Z in the graph are called contours. Contour graphs are frequently used in Cartography which is more associated with geocoding of the regions. However, it also has some utilization under different branches such as Astrology, Meteorology, in statistics as well, this type of chart is used in order to check the relationship between two predictors and response.
How to Create Contour Plots in Excel?
Contour Plots in Excel is very simple and easy. Let’s understand how to create the Contour Plots in Excel with some examples.
Example #1 – 2D Contour Graph in Excel
Suppose we are having a data of X, Y values on which the Z value is dependent (sum of logarithm’s to the base 10 for each corresponding X and Y header values for each column and row start). See the screenshot below.
Step 1: In order to create a graph associated with your data, select all the data from A1 to F6.
Step 2: Click on the “Insert” tab present on the uppermost ribbon in Microsoft Excel sheet and select the “Recommended Charts” option out of it.
Step 3: Once you click on the Recommended Charts option, it will open up a new window named Insert Chart. There in that window, click on All Charts option. A list of charts available under excel will open up. Out of the different list of charts, select Surface. Different types of surface charts (they are 4 in number) will be visible.
Step 4: Out of the 4 surface chart options available, click on the third chart which is a contour chart. Once you click on that, you’ll see a visualization of your contour graph associated with the data selected. Click on OK button to generate the graph.
Step 5: Once you click on OK button, that’s it. Your chart is ready, and you can see the layout of the same as shown in the image below.
Step 6: Add a title to this chart as the Contour graph under the Chart Title section.
As every chart in excel has, we have lots of customization available here for contour graph as well. For now, we will change the color and style of this chart to make it look more decent.
Step 7: Click on the chart area and a three-tab pane will appear on the right-hand side of the chart as shown in the image below. Out of those three, select the Chart Style icon (brush icon).
Step 8: Once you click on that, you will see a pop-up bar that has two options. One for style and other for the color. I will go to the color option and change the color of this chart.
Step 9: Once done, the contour graph should look like the image shown below.
Step 10: In this chart, the colored area represents a specific range of values. You can also see the same in legends at the bottom of the graph.
Step 11: The lines visible are nothing but the interpolation points of X and Y values.
Example #2 – Wireframe Contour Chart in Excel
There is one other way to create a contour chart. Let’s see how:
Step 1: Consider the same data as used in the previous example.
Step 1: Click on the Insert tab on the uppermost ribbon in Excel and select All Charts under the Recommended Graph section as we did in the previous example.
Step 2: Under All Charts go to Surface, you will be able to see the four surface charts available. Out of those four, select the chronologically last chart (appears on the rightmost pane). You will also see a layout of the contour graph.
Step 3: If you are happy with the graph layout, please click on OK at the bottom of the Insert Chart window.
- Once you click on the OK button, you will be able to see a graph layout as below.
Step 4: Add Wireframe Contour Chart as a title under the Chart Title area for this graph.
Step 5: In the same way we did in the first example, we can change the color of wires in this chart as well. Click on Chart Area and a pop up with three tabs will appear on the right side of the graph. There, click on Chart Style option which allows you to change either the style of the contour or the color or both of them.
Step 6: Under Style option, change the graph style as shown in the image below for better visualization.
- Your graph should look like the image shown below.
As you could have noticed, Wireframe Charts only provides a mesh of lines (wires) and not the color bands as used under Contour Chart (That is the reason it is called as Wireframe Contour). This makes Wireframes difficult to read. Therefore, as far as the contour charts are concerned, I will recommend using the Contour instead of Wireframe. It will be visually more appealing as well as the color bands will make it easier for the user to understand the value relationships. This is it from this article, let’s wrap it up with some things to remember.
Things to Remember About Contour Plots in Excel
- Contour Chart is used to show the 3D surface area in the 2D top view using a different band of color.
- It can be used when the categories and series both are numeric.
This is a guide to Contour Plots in Excel. Here we discuss How to Create Contour Plots in Excel along with practical examples and downloadable excel template. You can also go through our other suggested articles –