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VBA code for charts and graphs in Excel

VBA Code Snippets

Charts and graphs in Excel have hundreds of different options.  This is great for creating precisely the visualization we want but can be time-consuming to apply.  When we want to apply those hundreds of settings to lots of charts, it can take hours and hours of frustrating clicking.  The short code snippets below will help you apply some of the most common chart options with VBA (and hopefully turn those hours into minutes).

But don’t let me fool you into thinking that using VBA is quick and easy, it’s not.  But once you’ve mastered it, you’ll know the situations when VBA is the best option.

While it might be tempting to skip straight to the section you need, I recommend you read the first section in full.  Understanding Excel’s Document Object Model (DOM) is essential to understand how VBA can be used with charts.

In Excel 2013, many changes were introduced to the charting engine and DOM.  For example, the AddChart2 method replaced the AddChart method.  As a result, some of the code presented in this post may not work with versions before Excel 2013.

Adapting the code to your requirements

It is not feasible to provide code for every scenario you might come across; there are just too many options.  By applying the principles and methods in this post, you will be able to do almost anything you want with charts in Excel using VBA.

Understanding the Document Object Model

The Document Object Model (DOM) is a term which describes how things are structured.  For example:

  • A Workbook contains Sheets
  • A Sheet contains Ranges
  • A Range contains an Interior
  • An Interior contains a color setting

Therefore, to change a cell color to red, we would reference this as follows:

ActiveWorkbook.Sheets("Sheet1").Range("A1").Interior.Color = RGB(255, 0, 0)

Charts are also part of the DOM and follow similar hierarchical principles.  To change the height of Chart 1, on Sheet1, we could use the following.

ActiveWorkbook.Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects("Chart 1").Height = 300

Each item in the object hierarchy must be listed and separated by a period ( . ).

While the following code may look acceptable, it will not work.

ActiveWorkbook.ChartObjects("Chart 1").Height = 300

In the DOM, the ActiveWorkbook does not contain ChartObjects, so Excel cannot find Chart 1.  The parent of a ChartObject is a Sheet, and the Parent of a Sheet is a Workbook.  We must include the Sheet into the hierarchy for Excel to know what you want to do.

ActiveWorkbook.Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects("Chart 1").Height = 300

With this knowledge, we can refer to any element of any chart using Excel’s DOM.

Chart Objects vs. Charts vs. Chart Sheets

One of the things which makes the DOM for charts complicated is that many things exist in many places.  For example, a chart can be an embedded chart of the face of a worksheet, or as a separate sheet.

  • On the worksheet itself, we find, what VBA refers to as a ChartObject.  Within each ChartObject is a Chart.  Effectively a ChartObject is a container which holds a Chart.
  • A Chart is also a stand-alone sheet; it does not have a ChartObject around it.

This may seem confusing initially, but there are good reasons for this.

To change the chart title text, we would reference the two types of chart differently:

  • Chart on a worksheet:
    Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects("Chart 1").Chart.ChartTitle.Text = "My Chart Title"
  • Chart sheet:
    Sheets("Chart 1").ChartTitle.Text = "My Chart Title"

The sections in bold are the same, which shows that once we have got inside the Chart, the DOM is the same.

Writing code to work on either chart type

We want to write code which will work on any chart; we do this by creating a variable which holds the reference to a Chart.

Create a variable to refer to a Chart inside a ChartObject:

Dim cht As Chart
Set cht = Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects("Chart 1").Chart

Create a variable to refer to a Chart which is a sheet:

Dim cht As Chart
Set cht = Sheets("Chart 1")

Now we can write VBA code for a Chart sheet or a Chart inside a ChartObject by referring to the Chart using cht:

cht.ChartTitle.Text = "My Chart Title"

OK, so now we’ve established how to reference charts and briefly covered how the DOM works.  It is time to look at lots of code examples.

VBA Code Examples

Reference charts on a worksheet

Active Chart

Create a Chart variable to hold the ActiveChart:

Dim cht As Chart
Set cht = ActiveChart

Chart Object by name

Create a Chart variable to hold a specific chart by name.

Dim cht As Chart
Set cht = Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects("Chart 1").Chart

Chart object by number

If there are multiple charts on a worksheet, they can be referenced by their number.  1 = the first chart created, 2 = the second chart created etc, etc.

Dim cht As Chart
Set cht = Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects(1).Chart

Loop through all Chart Objects

If there are multiple ChartObjects on a page, we can loop through each:

Dim chtObj as ChartObject

For Each chtObj In Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects

    'Include the code to be applied to each ChartObjects
    'refer to the Chart using chtObj.cht

Next chtObj

Loop through all selected Chart Objects

If we only want to loop through the selected ChartObjects we can use the following code.

This code is tricky to apply as Excel operates differently when one chart is selected, compared to multiple charts.  Therefore, as a way to apply the Chart settings, without the need to repeat a lot of code, I recommend calling another macro and passing the Chart as an argument to that macro.

Dim obj As Object

'Check if any charts have been selected
If Not ActiveChart Is Nothing Then

    Call AnotherMacro(ActiveChart)

Else
    For Each obj In Selection

    'If more than one chart selected
    If TypeName(obj) = "ChartObject" Then

        Call AnotherMacro(obj.Chart)

    End If
Next

End If

Reference chart sheets

Active Chart

Set up a Chart variable to hold the ActiveChart:

Dim cht As Chart
Set cht = ActiveChart

Note: this is the same code as when referencing the active chart on the worksheet.

Chart sheet by name

Set up a Chart variable to hold a specific chart sheet

Dim cht As Chart 
Set cht = Sheets("Chart 1")

Loop through all chart sheets in a workbook

The following code will loop through all the chart sheets in the active workbook.

Dim cht As Chart

For Each cht In ActiveWorkbook.Charts

    Call AnotherMacro(cht)

Next cht

Chart

Some basic chart settings are shown below:

'Change chart type - these are common examples, others do exist.
cht.ChartType = xlArea
cht.ChartType = xlLine
cht.ChartType = xlPie
cht.ChartType = xlColumnClustered
cht.ChartType = xlColumnStacked
cht.ChartType = xlColumnStacked100
cht.ChartType = xlArea
cht.ChartType = xlAreaStacked
cht.ChartType = xlBarClustered
cht.ChartType = xlBarStacked
cht.ChartType = xlBarStacked100

'Create an empty chart embedded on a worksheet.
Set cht = Sheets("Sheet1").Shapes.AddChart2.Chart

'Select source for a chart
Dim rng As Range
Set rng = Sheets("Sheet1").Range("A1:B4")
cht.SetSourceData Source:=rng

'Delete a ChartObject or Chart sheet
If TypeName(cht.Parent) = "ChartObject" Then

    cht.Parent.Delete

ElseIf TypeName(cht.Parent) = "Workbook" Then

    cht.Delete

End If

'Set the size/position of a ChartObject - method 1
cht.Parent.Height = 200
cht.Parent.Width = 300
cht.Parent.Left = 20
cht.Parent.Top = 20

'Set the size/position of a ChartObject - method 2
chtObj.Height = 200
chtObj.Width = 300
chtObj.Left = 20
chtObj.Top = 20

'Change the setting to show only visible cells
cht.PlotVisibleOnly = False

'Change the gap space between bars
cht.ChartGroups(1).GapWidth = 50

'Change the overlap setting of bars
cht.ChartGroups(1).Overlap = 75

Chart Axis

There are four chart axis:

  • xlValue
  • xlValue, xlSecondary
  • xlCategory
  • xlCategory, xlSecondary

These are used interchangeably in the examples below. To adapt the code to your specific requirements you need to change the value in the brackets.

'Set chart axis min and max
cht.Axes(xlValue).MaximumScale = 25
cht.Axes(xlValue).MinimumScale = 10
cht.Axes(xlValue).MaximumScaleIsAuto = True
cht.Axes(xlValue).MinimumScaleIsAuto = True

'Display axis
cht.HasAxis(xlCategory) = True

'Hide axis
cht.HasAxis(xlValue, xlSecondary) = False

'Display axis title
cht.Axes(xlCategory, xlSecondary).HasTitle = True

'Hide axis title
cht.Axes(xlValue).HasTitle = False

'Change axis title text
cht.Axes(xlCategory).AxisTitle.Text = "My Axis Title"

'Reverse the order of a catetory axis
cht.Axes(xlCategory).ReversePlotOrder = True

Gridlines

'Add gridlines
cht.SetElement (msoElementPrimaryValueGridLinesMajor)
cht.SetElement (msoElementPrimaryCategoryGridLinesMajor)
cht.SetElement (msoElementPrimaryValueGridLinesMinorMajor)
cht.SetElement (msoElementPrimaryCategoryGridLinesMinorMajor)

'Delete gridlines
cht.Axes(xlValue).MajorGridlines.Delete
cht.Axes(xlValue).MinorGridlines.Delete
cht.Axes(xlCategory).MajorGridli.Delete
cht.Axes(xlCategory).MinorGridlines.Delete

'Change colour of gridlines
cht.Axes(xlValue).MajorGridlines.Format.Line.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change transparency of gridlines
cht.Axes(xlValue).MajorGridlines.Format.Line.Transparency = 0.5

Chart Title

'Display chart title
cht.HasTitle = True

'Hide chart title
cht.HasTitle = False

'Change chart title text
cht.ChartTitle.Text = "My Chart Title"

'Position the chart title
cht.ChartTitle.Left = 10
cht.ChartTitle.Top = 10

'Format the chart title
cht.ChartTitle.TextFrame2.TextRange.Font.Name = "Calibri"
cht.ChartTitle.TextFrame2.TextRange.Font.Size = 16
cht.ChartTitle.TextFrame2.TextRange.Font.Bold = msoTrue
cht.ChartTitle.TextFrame2.TextRange.Font.Bold = msoFalse
cht.ChartTitle.TextFrame2.TextRange.Font.Italic = msoTrue
cht.ChartTitle.TextFrame2.TextRange.Font.Italic = msoFalse

Chart Legend

'Display the legend
cht.HasLegend = True

'Hide the legend
cht.HasLegend = False

'Position the legend
cht.Legend.Position = xlLegendPositionTop
cht.Legend.Position = xlLegendPositionRight
cht.Legend.Position = xlLegendPositionLeft
cht.Legend.Position = xlLegendPositionCorner
cht.Legend.Position = xlLegendPositionBottom

'Allow legend to overlap the chart.  
'False = allow overlap, True = due not overlap
cht.Legend.IncludeInLayout = False
cht.Legend.IncludeInLayout = True

'Move legend to a specific point
cht.Legend.Left = 20
cht.Legend.Top = 200
cht.Legend.Width = 100
cht.Legend.Height = 25

Plot Area

'Set the size and position of the PlotArea
cht.PlotArea.Left = 20
cht.PlotArea.Top = 20
cht.PlotArea.Width = 200
cht.PlotArea.Height = 150

Chart series

Set up a Series variable to hold a chart series. 1 = First chart series, 2 = Second chart series.

Dim srs As Series
Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection(1)

Referencing a chart series by name

Dim srs As Series
Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection("Series Name")

Loop through each chart series

For Each srs In cht.SeriesCollection

    'Do something to each series
    'See the codes below starting with "srs."

Next srs

Change series data

'Change series source data and name
srs.Values = "=Sheet1!$C$2:$C$6"
srs.Name = "=""Change Series Name"""

'Add a new chart series
Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection.NewSeries
srs.Values = "=Sheet1!$C$2:$C$6"
srs.Name = "=""New Series"""
'Set the values for the X axis when using XY Scatter
srs.XValues = "=Sheet1!$D$2:$D$6"

Display data labels

'Display data labels on all points in the series
srs.HasDataLabels = True

'Hide data labels on all points in the series
srs.HasDataLabels = False

'Position data labels
'The label position must be a valid option for the chart type.
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionAbove
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionBelow
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionLeft
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionRight
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionCenter
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionInsideEnd
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionInsideBase
srs.DataLabels.Position = xlLabelPositionOutsideEnd

Series formatting

'Change fill colour
srs.Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change line colour
srs.Format.Line.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change visibility of line
srs.Format.Line.Visible = msoTrue

'Change line weight
srs.Format.Line.Weight = 10

'Change line style
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineDash
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineSolid
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineSysDot
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineSysDash
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineDashDot
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineLongDash
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineLongDashDot
srs.Format.Line.DashStyle = msoLineLongDashDotDot

'Changer marker type
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleAutomatic
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleCircle
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleDash
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleDiamond
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleDot
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleNone

'Change marker border color
srs.MarkerForegroundColor = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change marker fill color
srs.MarkerBackgroundColor = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change marker size
srs.MarkerSize = 8

Error Bars

'Turn error bars on/off
srs.HasErrorBars = True
srs.HasErrorBars = False

'Change end style of error bar
srs.ErrorBars.EndStyle = xlNoCap
srs.ErrorBars.EndStyle = xlCap

'Change color of error bars
srs.ErrorBars.Format.Line.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change thickness of error bars
srs.ErrorBars.Format.Line.Weight = 5

'Error bar settings
srs.ErrorBar Direction:=xlY, _
    Include:=xlPlusValues, _
    Type:=xlFixedValue, _
    Amount:=100
'Alternatives options for the error bar settings are
'Direction:=xlX
'Include:=xlMinusValues
'Include:=xlPlusValues
'Include:=xlBoth
'Type:=xlFixedValue
'Type:=xlPercent
'Type:=xlStDev
'Type:=xlStError
'Type:=xlCustom

'Applying custom values to error bars
srs.ErrorBar Direction:=xlY, _
    Include:=xlPlusValues, _
    Type:=xlCustom, _
    Amount:="=Sheet1!$A$2:$A$7", _
    MinusValues:="=Sheet1!$A$2:$A$7"

Points

Each data point on a chart series is known as a Point.

Reference a specific point

The following code will reference the first Point.

Dim srs As Series 
Dim pnt As Point

Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection(1)
Set pnt = srs.Points(1)

Loop through all points

Dim srs As Series 
Dim pnt As Point

Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection(1)

For Each pnt In srs.Points

    'Do something to each point, using "pnt."

Next pnt

Point Codes

Points have similar properties to Series, but it is applied to a single data point in the series rather than the whole series.  See a few examples below, just to give you the idea.

'Turn on data label
pnt.HasDataLabel = True

'Set the position of a data label
pnt.DataLabel.Position = xlLabelPositionCenter

Bringing it all together

Just to prove how we can use these code snippets, I have created a macro to create bullet charts. This isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to write the code, but it is to demonstrate that by understanding the code above we can create a lot of charts.

The data looks like this:

Bullet Chart Data

The chart looks like this:

Bullet Chart Completed

The code which achieves this is as follows:

Sub CreateBulletChart()

Dim cht As Chart
Dim srs As Series
Dim rng As Range

'Create an empty chart
Set cht = Sheets("Sheet3").Shapes.AddChart2.Chart

'Change chart title text
cht.ChartTitle.Text = "Bullet Chart with VBA"

'Hide the legend
cht.HasLegend = False

'Change chart type
cht.ChartType = xlBarClustered

'Select source for a chart
Set rng = Sheets("Sheet3").Range("A1:D4")
cht.SetSourceData Source:=rng

'Reverse the order of a catetory axis
cht.Axes(xlCategory).ReversePlotOrder = True

'Change the overlap setting of bars
cht.ChartGroups(1).Overlap = 100

'Change the gap space between bars
cht.ChartGroups(1).GapWidth = 50

'Change fill colour
Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection(1)
srs.Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(200, 200, 200)

Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection(2)
srs.Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(150, 150, 150)

Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection(3)
srs.Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(100, 100, 100)

'Add a new chart series
Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection.NewSeries
srs.Values = "=Sheet3!$B$7:$D$7"
srs.XValues = "=Sheet3!$B$5:$D$5"
srs.Name = "=""Actual"""

'Change chart type
srs.ChartType = xlXYScatter

'Turn error bars on/off
srs.HasErrorBars = True

'Change end style of error bar
srs.ErrorBars.EndStyle = xlNoCap

'Set the error bars
srs.ErrorBar Direction:=xlY, _
    Include:=xlNone, _
    Type:=xlErrorBarTypeCustom

srs.ErrorBar Direction:=xlX, _
    Include:=xlMinusValues, _
    Type:=xlPercent, _
    Amount:=100

'Change color of error bars
srs.ErrorBars.Format.Line.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(0, 0, 0)

'Change thickness of error bars
srs.ErrorBars.Format.Line.Weight = 14

'Change marker type
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleNone

'Add a new chart series
Set srs = cht.SeriesCollection.NewSeries
srs.Values = "=Sheet3!$B$7:$D$7"
srs.XValues = "=Sheet3!$B$6:$D$6"
srs.Name = "=""Target"""

'Change chart type
srs.ChartType = xlXYScatter

'Turn error bars on/off
srs.HasErrorBars = True

'Change end style of error bar
srs.ErrorBars.EndStyle = xlNoCap

srs.ErrorBar Direction:=xlX, _
    Include:=xlNone, _
    Type:=xlErrorBarTypeCustom

srs.ErrorBar Direction:=xlY, _
    Include:=xlBoth, _
    Type:=xlFixedValue, _
    Amount:=0.45

'Change color of error bars
srs.ErrorBars.Format.Line.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)

'Change thickness of error bars
srs.ErrorBars.Format.Line.Weight = 2

'Changer marker type
srs.MarkerStyle = xlMarkerStyleNone

'Set chart axis min and max
cht.Axes(xlValue, xlSecondary).MaximumScale = cht.SeriesCollection(1).Points.Count
cht.Axes(xlValue, xlSecondary).MinimumScale = 0

'Hide axis
cht.HasAxis(xlValue, xlSecondary) = False

End Sub

When to use the Macro Recorder?

The Macro Recorder is one of the most useful tools for writing VBA for Excel charts.  The DOM is so vast that it can be challenging to know how to refer to a specific object, property or method.   Studying the code produced by the Macro Recorder will provide the parts of the DOM which you don’t know.

As a note, the Macro Recorder creates poorly constructed code; it selects each object before manipulating it (this is what you did with the mouse after all).  But this is OK for us.  Once we understand the DOM, we can take just the parts of the code we need and ensure we put them into the right part of the hierarchy.



Want to Learn VBA & Macros?

If you want to automate Excel and save time, my recommended resouces for learning VBA Macros are:

2 thoughts on “VBA code for charts and graphs in Excel

  1. ramprakash says:

    While updating the color for graph we are getting following error

    Run time error ‘1004’
    parameter not valid

    Dim Cht1 As Chart
    Set Cht1 = ActiveSheet.ChartObjects(“Chart 1”).Chart
    Cht1.ChartArea.Select
    Cht1.FullSeriesCollection(1).Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)
    Cht1.ChartArea.Select
    Cht1.FullSeriesCollection(2).Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)
    Cht1.ChartArea.Select
    Cht1.FullSeriesCollection(3).Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)
    Cht1.FullSeriesCollection(4).Format.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(255, 0, 0)

    • Excel Off The Grid says:

      Hi Ramprakash – the VBA code above is applied to the Series 1, 2, 3 and 4, but you probably have less than 4 series in the chart.

      Also, you don’t need to use the Cht1.ChartArea.Select lines, they don’t achieve anything.

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