How to Create a Thermometer Chart in Excel

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It happens sometimes that when you need to track a goal with its achievement. For this, it’s important to have the right chart. That chart should be able to present your data in an understandable way

And it should be easy to create. I believe that the thermometer chart is one of the best charts for a single point target. It’s simple to create and easy to understand for a user.

What is a Thermometer Chart?

The Thermometer chart looks like a thermometer. The filled part goes up as the achievement increase. In Excel, there is no default option to create a thermometer chart but you can create it by using simple steps.

excel thermometer chart looks like a thermometer

For this, in this post, I’ve share simple steps to create a thermometer chart in Excel.

Steps to Create a Thermometer Chart in Excel

To make a thermometer chart in Excel you need to follow below steps and make sure to download this sample file to follow along:

  • First, make sure you have data in the below format, where the target is 100 (in percentage) and achievement is 68 percent against the target.
    data-to-create-your-first-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • After that, select entire data and go to Insert Tab ➜ Charts ➜ 2D-Column Chart and insert this chart.
    insert-column-chart-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • From here, right click on your chart and click “Select Data”.
    right-click-on-chart-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • Now, from the select data window, click on “Switch Row/Column” and click OK.
    switch-row-column-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • Next right click on achievement data bar and open “Format Data Series”.
    open-format-data-series-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • And now, go to “Series Options” and select “Secondary Axis” to convert the achievement bar into a secondary axis chart.
    apply-secondary-axis-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • At this point, you have two data bars (overlapping each other) with a different axis. But you need to make their axis values the same.
    need-to-change-axis-value-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel-1
  • Now from here, right-click on the first axis and select “Format Axis” and add maximum value “100” or the max target values you have. Do the same with the secondary axis as well.
    change-chart-axis-values-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel
  • At this point, your thermometer chart is almost ready, the only thing you need to do is a bit of formatting for the final touch.
    1. For target bar, use no fill for color and a solid line color border.
    2. Use the same color for achievement bar (fill and border) which you have used for target bar border.
    3. Delete chart title, horizontal axis, and right vertical axis.
    4. Select the left axis ➜ formatting pane ➜ Axis Options ➜ Tick Marks ➜ outside tick marks for major and minor.
    5. In the end, make sure to make “Gap Width” for both of the data bars (Target and Achievement) to “0%” you have bar’s width according to the chart’s width.
      to-create-a-thermometer-chart-in-excel-change-the-gap-width

 

Hurrah! You did it.

final step to create thermometer chart in excel

Your thermometer chart is ready to rock. You can also add a shape below your chart to make it looks like a real thermometer (I don’t like to add but, you can). Download this file from here to check my ready to use Excel thermometer chart.

Dynamic Thermometer Chart with Different Colors

When I was writing this post, one of my friends who was sitting beside me, asked: “Hey, why don’t you use different colors for different levels in this thermometer chart.”

So, I did.

This one is a little bit tricky but worth to learn and you’ll love your final chart. I have used different colors for different levels. It goes like this:

learn how to create a thermometer chart in excel

Value

Color

Up to 40

Red

Less than 70 and more than 40

Yellow

More than 70

Green

So let’s get started…

  • Enter following data in your worksheet.
    blank-data-table-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel-different-colors
  • Enter target value (I’m using 100 here) and in the achievement cell insert the actual achievement value.
  • After that, we have to insert three simple formulas in rest of the three cells.
From Excellent: =IF(F4>=70,F4,””)
For Good: =IF(AND(F4>=40,F4<70),F4,””)
For Bad: =IF(F4<40,F4,””)

Note: These formulas will show achievement value if it is falling in their range.

  • Now select the target, excellent, good, and bad cells and insert a column chart.
  • At this point, we have a chart like below with four bars but two out them have no value.
    insert-column-chart-to-create-thermometer-chart-in-excel-different-colors
  • After that, change “Switch Row/Column”.
  • Now we need to change three bars (Excellent, Good, and Bad) into secondary axis. This is little tricky because you can’t select bars easily which have zero value but I have a good solution for that.
  1. Select your chart ➜ Right click ➜ Format chart area.
  2. Click on the chart options drop down and select Series “Excellent”.
  3. Change the chart plot to secondary (Do this for excellent, good, and bad bars) .
  4. Make series overlap 100% (Do this for all four bars).
  5. Gap width 0% (Do this for all four bars).
insert column chart to create thermometer chart in excel different colors

Final touch:

  1. Match axis unit values for both of the axes.
  2. Delete chart title.
  3. Delete secondary vertical axis and horizontal axis.
  4. Add tick marks.

Bang! here is your thermometer chart.

final steps to create a thermometer chart in excel different colors

Download this sample file from here to learn more about this.

Conclusion

Creating a basic thermometer chart in Excel is simple. And, if you want to create this color changing thermometer chart you need some extra steps, I hope you don’t mind for that.

A few days back, I found some people saying that it’s better to use thermometer chart than using a SPEEDOMETER/GAUGE. I have used a thermometer chart in my one page daily sales report template.

Now tell me one thing. What do you think about its application in your dashboards?Please share your views with me in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you. And, don’t forget to share this tip with your friends.

More Charting Tips and Tutorials

 

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  1. very good tutorials…however, how do i create a thermometer chart where actual fund collection exceeds the target. Help to do that will be valued.

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. I love the thermometer chart. The only thing that’s giving me trouble is that the left horizontal axis on the chart changes from a normal 0 – 100 to showing 84 – 100 when I enter a value of 90 – 99 in the achievement box so it appears that the bar drops. Are there any solutions for this?

    Reply
  3. how do I get the colors to change on the bar? I have all the information in but the color is one solid color and I can’t figure out how you made >70 green etc

    Reply