Excel Surface Charts ( Table of Contents)
What is Surface Chart?
Surface charts are those charting tools provided by Excel that enhance Excel’s ability to a visual analytics tool. These types of charts are common for temperature analysis. The chart works on numbers and requires at least two series for its generation. The chart allows easy visualization-based analysis as it rests on the idea of three dimensions. The crucial elements of a surface chart are dimension values or categories that are represented on the x-axis, the measure in the context which is represented by the y-axis, and the third axis i.e. z-axis represents different series in the given context.
How to Create Surface Chart in Excel?
For this demonstration, we are considering sales data for nine major cities in India. As we can see by going through the following dataset, the data for the nine cities has been given quarter-wise. We will build a surface chart visualization to analyze the sales and compare the sales figures across the cities.
Let’s go through a step-by-step procedure to build a surface chart on the above dataset, using the steps as described below.
- Having the entire dataset selected, go to the “Other Charts” option in the Insert menu, as shown in the below screenshot. In “Other Charts”, there are many chart options available, from which we select the first symbol in the “Surface” option. This is as illustrated below.
- In the following screenshot the x-axis represents the categories or dimensions in the dataset, the y-axis represents the measure (in this case Sales), and in this case, the z-axis is being represented by quarters. Remember, the surface chart requires at least two series for its building. Notice carefully the legend. Usually, in charts, we find legends representing categories. However, here a legend represents a particular range of Sales values. This is how surface charts are distinguished from other charts because this chart necessarily represents a measure in terms of depth parameter.
- The chart that is generated may not necessarily be of the required size we can expand it as required. The following screenshot shows the chart that has been expanded sufficiently to make it’s every element clearly visible.
- The default chart that is generated may not be present in the desired form, and by editing its properties, we can change it to the required form. For this, right-click on the chart, and from various options, select the requisite one. In this case, we aren’t able to interpret the chart properly, so we will rotate it slightly. For that click on the “3-D Rotation” option. This is as illustrated in the following screenshot. Once we do this, the “Format Chart Area” dialog box pops-up as shown in the screenshot subsequent to the below one.
- In the “Format Chart Area” dialog box, we can set the values of the required variable as needed. Various options in the Format Chart Area are as shown below. We can set the required axis value as needed, and the chart will rotate based on the value.
The following screenshot shows, how the chart is rotated clockwise after we increased the x-axis value to 40 degrees.
- Now, we increased the value of x-axis further, setting it to 70 degrees, along with slightly increasing the value for the y-axis by setting it to 20 degrees. Just observe the chart that we get, which is as shown in the following screenshot.
As mentioned above the chart must be expanded till it clearly represents each of its elements. We expanded the chart that we got in the above step and expanded it till we got a sufficiently big size chart. The chart is as shown in the following screenshot. Observe carefully, the following chart. As we can see, different colors represent different categories, and moreover, the data has been represented as a surface but still not making it difficult for a stakeholder to interpret requisite insights from it. From the chart, we can infer that Q3 sales are much less as compared to sales in other quarters. Ranges represented by colors assist us to understand what range is depicted by sales maximum or minimum time.
As we can see, the chart now looks much insightful than what it was before. We can change every aspect of the visualization until we get the one that we find it suitable based on the problem. We can explore other types in the “Surface” category. For this right-click on the chart, and select the “Change Chart Type” option. This is as illustrated in the below screenshot.
- As we can see in the below screenshot, we selected the second option i.e. “Wireframe 3-D Surface” as shown in the following screenshot, and the chart type got changed. Here, the chart looks like that of a wireframe.
- When we change the surface chart type to “Contour” type, we get the following screenshot as shown in the following screenshot.
- We have a fourth option in the Surface chart which is “Wireframe Contour”. When we select it, we get the contour chart that looks like a wireframe. This is as illustrated in the below screenshot. Go through the following visualization.
Things to Remember
- When we want to analyze situations involving three-dimensional analyses with complexity(s), surface chart proves to be handy. However, it must be remembered that surface chart must be applied only after studying the context properly so that the application doesn’t result in the wrong application of the chart.
- Amongst various options available in surface chart, the requisite one must be selected only after identifying the suitability of the chart based on the context. Each of the options offers some uniqueness and suits a, and is applicable in a particular situation.
- It is very essential to study each of the components of the surface chart. Understanding the chart is the most important thing.
This is a guide to Surface Charts in Excel. Here we discuss How to create Surface Charts in Excel along with practical examples and downloadable excel template. You can also go through our other suggested articles –