How to Make a Color Coded Legend in PowerPoint

By Filonia LeChat

Explain the details of a chart with a color-coded legend.
i Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

No matter how careful your statisticians or financial staff may be, if they assemble a chart or graph of information without telling the audience what they’re looking at, your readers may become lost. Use Microsoft PowerPoint to craft a custom legend that's color-coded to match the pie chart, bar graph, scatter plot, or other diagram type. With PowerPoint’s shape and color collections, you’ll be able to quickly create a legend that helps viewers truly get the picture.

Open PowerPoint. Drag the cursor to highlight the two “Click to add title” and “Click to add subtitle” text boxes. Press the “Delete” key to remove them from the slide. This gets the unneeded fields out of your way.

Click the “Insert” tab. Click the “Shapes” button on the ribbon, and then click the first shape in the Rectangles section.

Hover the cursor over the slide work area and press the “Shift” key, which will let you draw a square. Click the left mouse button and drag until the square is your preferred legend size. Keep in mind that the number of squares in your legend will need to fit on the slide. Release the mouse button and the “Shift” key. A square appears with a dark blue border and mid-blue middle.

Click the orange “Drawing Tools” tab that appears when the square appears. Click “Shape Fill” on the ribbon and choose a new middle color, one that will correspond with your chart or graph data. Click the “Shape Outline” button on the ribbon and choose the same color so that the square is one solid color.

Right-click the square and choose “Copy.” Right-click the PowerPoint slide and choose “Paste.” When the new square pastes in, drag it directly below the first. Click the new square, and then repeat the “Shape Fill” and “Shape Outline” process to change its colors to match another part of the chart.

Right-click and choose “Paste.” A third square pastes in. Change its colors so this legend square matches the chart and move it into place below the first two.

Repeat the process until you have one colored square for each color in the chart.

Click the “Insert” tab and then the “Text Box” button. When the cursor changes to an upside-down cross, drag to form a text box next to the top square in the legend. Click inside the text box and type that legend detail, such as “Employee Salaries,” noting that this color means this data point in the chart.

Add a text box per each legend square. You can also add a text box at the top of the slide and type a title for the legend.

Click the “File” tab and choose “Save As.” Click into the “File name” field, type a name for the document, and click the “Save” button.