How to Creatively Highlight Above and Below Average in Excel Line Chart

To visually see when the line on the chart is above or below the average of the series, we can simply insert an average line on the chart. It will look something like this.

Is it attractive? Or this one?

I can guess your answer.

So how do we make this chart that highlights the area when the line is above or below the average? Let's learn it step by step.

Highlight Area When Line is Above and Below the Average

The best way to learn is to learn by example. So let's start with an example.

Here I have some data that tells the total sales done by individual salesmen. I want to visualize this data into a chart.

Step 1: Add Three helper columns

To make such a chart, we will need three helper columns. First helper columns will have average data. The second helper column will have all the points where sales are larger than the average. And the third column will have the points where the sales are less than the average.

So the formula in the average column will be:


Write this formula in the first cell of the average column and drag it down. Make sure that all the cells have the same values. We have used absolute referencing so that references don't change when formula copied down.

In the next column, we need all the UP values. It will be a positive difference between average and sales data. In other words, we need to subtract Average data from Sales only if Sales are greater than Average. The formula in D2 will be:


Drag it down.

In the next column, we need all the Down values. It will be a negative difference between the average and sales data. In other words, we need to subtract Average data from Sales only if Sales is less than Average. The formula for E2 will be:


Drag it down.

Step 2: Select Sales Adviser and Sales and Insert a Line Chart: In our example, we select the range A1:C7. Go to Insert--> Charts--> Line and Area --> Line with Markers. We have a chart that will look like this.

Step 3: Add Average Series one more time

Right-Click on the chart and click on the Select Data option. Here, click on the Add button in the Legend and Entries section. Select the average range C2:C7 as values of the series. It will insert a line on the original average line. We will need it in the formatting. It is important.

Step 4: Add Up and Down Series to the Data

As you added the average series again, similarly add the Up and Down series one by one to the series. Finally, you will have a chart that looks like this. this does not look anything like what we want it to be, right? Wait, it will evolve.

Step 5: Change Second Average Series, Up, and Down Series to Stacked Area Chart

Right-click on any series on the chart and click on the change Data Series Chart Type option. This will change the chart a lot and it will start taking a form that we want this excel line chart to be.

Step 6: Select No Fill for Average Area Stacked Chart:

Right-click on the area of average part and click on the format data series. In line with the fill option, go to fill and select no fill option.

Now the chart looks exactly what we wanted it to look like. We just need to do a little bit of formatting to make it suit our dashboard/presentation theme.

Step 7: Format the chart to suit the theme. 

Remove all the less required things from the chart. I removed the average legend from the chart since I don't need it. I removed the gridlines because I want my chart to look cleaner. I changed the color of the up area to green since and down the area to red. I named the chart title "Sales against Average".

Finally, I have this chart.

Note: This chart can be used as a target vs achievement chart. Just change the values of the average series to targets and boom, you will have the creative target vs achievement chart in Excel.

Down load the template file below:

image 48

So yeah guys, this how you can creatively use an excel line chart to highlight areas when a line goes below average or above average. I hope it is useful for you. If you have any doubts regarding this chart on any other excel/VBA related topic, ask in the comments section below.

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