How to Add an Overlay to Excel

By Sean Mann

Don't limit yourself to a single chart type in Excel.
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Overlaying one chart type onto another in Microsoft Excel 2010 is a helpful technique that lets you combine two different ways to present data onto a single graphic. A common use of this in the business world is to overlay a line chart onto a bar chart to display data, such as your company's actual revenue versus projected revenue. These types of overlays can help communicate changes in the data more effectively than using a single chart type.

Open your spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel 2010.

Click and drag the range of cells you want to create a chart from. For example, select the cells from A1 to B10.

Click the "Insert" tab on the Excel ribbon.

Click one of the chart types from the Charts group of the Excel ribbon. Select a specific type of chart from the drop-down list. For example, click the "Line" icon and select a "Line" chart. This will place a chart on your spreadsheet.

Click one of the data series on the chart. For example, click the red line on the line chart.

Click the "Design" tab in the "Chart Tools" section of the Excel ribbon.

Click the "Change Chart Type" icon from the "Type" group of the Excel ribbon.

Select a chart type for your overlay. Click the "OK" button. For example, click "Column" and select "Clustered Column." This will overlay the second chart type onto your original chart.


Customize your chart with pictures, shapes, titles, legends, labels, axes and gridlines from the "Layout" tab in the "Chart Tools" section of the Excel ribbon. The "Chart Tools" section becomes visible when you click your chart.

You can't overlay a 2-D chart type onto a 3-D chart type.