Excel Waterfall Chart Change Colors

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In this article, we will learn how to make a waterfall chat and how to use a waterfall chart to change colors in Excel for impactful and insightful visuals.

Waterfall charts are widely used in financial data to highlight changes over time between different categories. Microsoft introduced the waterfall chart feature in Excel 2016. In later versions, Excel made it easier for users to create and customize waterfall charts directly within the application, enhancing data analysis and presentation capabilities. We will show you how to create a Waterfall chart, change the color theme, and scale charts and enhance the visual representation of the waterfall chart.

overview image of Excel waterfall chart change colors


What Is Waterfall Chart?

A waterfall chart is a graphical representation that visually displays the sequential change in values, allowing users to observe how initial and final values are affected by intermediate positive and negative changes. They are also known as cascade chart or bridge chart.

Waterfall charts find professional use in financial analysis, project management, sales analysis, budgeting, market share evaluation, and more. They help visualize data effectively and aid in making informed decisions.


How to Create Waterfall Chart in Excel: 3 Steps

Waterfall charts are very useful in presenting financial data, showing how positive and negative values contribute to the total. Check out the following step to understand how to use and create a waterfall chart in Excel.


Step 1: Format Data Structure for Waterfall Chart

We will use a financial dataset that includes two products (A & B), each with quarterly income, and the yearly total income from the products.

dataset for a waterfall chart

Our goal is to use the “Quarterly Increasecolumn to display the positive and negative contributions of each quarter to the total earnings. We will create a waterfall chart with this dataset to visualize the data effectively.

making dataset to create a waterfall chart in Excel

📝 NOTE: To calculate the Quarterly Increase, subtract the previous quarterly income from the current quarterly income.

Step 2: Inserting Waterfall Chart in Excel

With the dataset structure ready, we can proceed to create a waterfall chart. Firstly, select the data range (cell range B12:C19). Then, go to the insert tab and choose the waterfall chart from the charts group.

inserting waterfall chart in Excel

Instantly, a basic waterfall chart will be created in Excel. However, our chart is not complete yet. Let’s follow the next steps to enhance it and make it a complete waterfall chart.


Step 3: Enhance the Visual Appearance of The Waterfall Chart

The chart presents three series: increase, decrease, and Total. However, Excel requires you to specify the data point for the Total series since it cannot automatically identify it.

setting data series for the total point

To specify the Total series, double-click on the column containing your Total values. Keep double-clicking until the other columns are faded out, indicating that only that particular column is selected.

After selecting the column, a side panel will open on the left side of the window, such as “Format Data Point“, showing options. From this panel, locate the checkbox labeled “Set as total” and check it. As a result, the color of the selected column will change, indicating that it is now associated with the Total label.

If you are using Excel 2016, after selecting the column, simply right-click on it and choose “Set as total“.

setting total column in Excel for a waterfall chart

To set the total column for both financial years, i.e. FY 2020 and FY 2021, follow the same process and set two total columns in the chart – one at the beginning and one at the end.

waterfall chart in Excel

As a result, you will have the following waterfall chart. It showcases increases in green and decreases in red, while the total columns are highlighted in grey. To add more chart elements and customize the chart, click on the design or plus sign at the top right corner of the chart.

Read More: How to Make a Waterfall Chart with Multiple Series in Excel


How to Change Waterfall Chart Color in Excel

In Excel, waterfall chart colors change is an easy task. There are two ways to do this task. However, manually adjusting the colors might be time-consuming and static. To create a dynamic and consistent color scheme, you can customize the theme colors in Excel.

Go to the Page Layout tab and select the Theme Colors option from the Themes group.

navigating through the page layout tab to change color themes in Excel

At this point, choose “Customize Colors…” at the bottom of the color options. This will open the Edit Theme Colors window.

edit theme color window

In the Edit Theme Colors window, focus on changing the colors for Accent 1, Accent 2, and Accent 3, as these are the colors used for the data series (increase, decrease, and total) in the waterfall chart.

You can also name this custom color theme, for example, “Custom 1“. Finally, click the Save button to save the changes.

final output after waterfall chart color change

For instance, you can change Accent 1 from green to yellow and Accent 2 from red to blue. As a result, the waterfall chart will display the increased columns in yellow and the decreased columns in blue. Thus, one can easily use Excel for a waterfall chart to change colors.

📝 NOTE: When you change the theme color in Excel, it may also affect the color of other elements associated with the theme of Excel.

How to Change Scale in Excel Waterfall Chart

In Excel, it automatically determines the scale of a chart based on the data provided. By changing the scale, we can control the range of values displayed on the chart, allowing us to focus on specific data points and trends more effectively.

two waterfall charting showing the need for change in scale

Consider a scenario where two charts are not of equal height and width; this can lead to visual distortions and discomfort in the representation. To address this issue, changing the scale in Excel becomes necessary. To do so, right-click on any axis( i.e. vertical axis) and choose Format Axis. Under the Bounds category, manually adjust the Minimum and Maximum values to customize the scale according to your requirements. Press Enter to update the axis scale.

format axis through changing bound values of waterfall chart

For example, we have set the bound value to 100 for both charts to ensure uniformity. Optionally, you can delete the vertical axis to focus more on the data, making your charts visually appealing and effectively conveying insights.

final output after scaling the waterfall chart


How to Change Legend Text in Waterfall Chart

It is quite an easy and simple process if you want to change the legend text in the waterfall chart. When creating a chart in Excel, the legend or title is initially labeled as “Graph“, “Chart” or “Legend“. To customize the name and provide a proper label, simply select the text box with a left-click and then right-click to access the options menu. Choose the “Edit Text” option to modify the legend text as desired.

change waterfall chart legend

For instance, we have changed the title of the chart from “Waterfall Chart” to “Waterfall Chart of Product A“.

final output after changing the legend title text in a waterfall chart

📝 NOTE: To quickly edit any graph, chart, legend, or title box in Excel, use a double left-click on the selected box.

Things to Remember

  • Meaningful Colors: Select colors that convey meaning; for example, green for positive values and red for negative values can enhance visual understanding.
  • Dynamic Color Updates and Consistency: Use custom theme colors to keep the color scheme consistent across increase and decrease elements to ensure clarity in data representation.
  • Axis Scale: Adjust the axis scale to present data more accurately and avoid misrepresentations in the visual representation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How do you change the color of the connector lines in a waterfall chart?
To change the color of the connector lines in a waterfall chart, click on the chart to select it. Then, go to the Chart Design or Format tab on the ribbon, and use the Shape Outline or Line Color option to choose a new color for the connector lines.

Q2. How do I change the color scheme in the Excel chart?
To change the color scheme in an Excel chart, select the chart and go to the Chart Design or Format tab on the ribbon. Then, use the Change Colors option to pick a new color scheme from the available presets.

Q3. Will changing the color scheme impact the overall chart appearance?
Yes, changing the color scheme can significantly impact the visual appeal of the waterfall chart. Choose colors that effectively highlight positive and negative values for better data interpretation.


Download Practice Workbook
You can download the workbook, where we have provided a practice section on the right side of each worksheet. Try it yourself.


Conclusion

In conclusion, the ability to change colors in an Excel waterfall chart provides users with the power to enhance data visualization and presentation. Customizing the color scheme makes charts more visually appealing and effective at conveying information. Whether highlighting positive and negative values, emphasizing important data points, or matching the chart with the overall presentation theme, the flexibility to change colors allows for greater customization and professional results.


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Ishrak Khan
Ishrak Khan

Qayem Ishrak Khan, BURP, Urban and Regional Planning, Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh, has been working with the ExcelDemy project for 1 year. He wrote over 40+ articles for ExcelDemy. He is an Excel and VBA Content Developer providing authentic solutions to different Excel-related problems and writing amazing content articles regularly. Data Visualization, DBMS, and Data Analysis are his main areas of interest. Besides, He has passions about learning and working with different features of Microsoft... Read Full Bio

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