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How to break chart axis in Excel?

When there are extraordinary big or small series/points in source data, the small series/points will not be precise enough in the chart. In these cases, some users may want to break the axis, and make both small series and big series precise simultaneously. This article will show you two ways to break chart axis in Excel.

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arrow blue right bubbleBreak a chart axis with a secondary axis in chart

Supposing there are two data series in the source data as below screen shot shown, we can easily add a chart and break the chart axis with adding a secondary axis in the chart. And you can do as follows:

1. Select the source data, and add a line chart with clicking the Insert Line Chart (or Line)> Line on the Insert tab.

2. In the chart, right click the below series, and then select the Format Data Series from the right-clicking menu.

3. In the opening Format Data Series pane/dialog box, check the Secondary Axis option, and then close the pane or dialog box.

4. In the chart, right click the secondary vertical axis (the right one) and select Format Axis from the right-clicking menu. See screenshot above:

5. Go ahead based on your Microsoft Excel version:
(1) In Excel 2013's Format Axis pane, type 200 into the Maximum box in the Bounds section, and in the Number group enter [<=100]0;;; into the Format code box and click the Add button, and then close the pane.
(2) In Excel 2007 and 2010's Format Axis dialog box, click Axis Option in left bar, check Fixed option behind Maximum and then type 200 into following box; click Number in left bar, type [<=100]0;;; into the Format code box and click the Add button, at last close the dialog box.

Excel 2013 or higher versions:

Excel 2007 and 2010:

6. In Excel 2013, right click the primary vertical axis (the left one) in the chart and select the Format Axis to open the Format Axis pane, then enter [>=500]0;;; into the Format Code box and click the Add button, and close the pane. (Note: If you are using Excel 2007 or 2010, right click the primary vertical axis in the chart and select the Format Axis to open the Format Axis dialog box, click Number in left bar, type [>=500]0;;; into the Format Code box and click the Add button, and close the dialog box.)

Excel 2013 or higher version:

Excel 2007 and 2010:

Then you will see there are two Y axes in the selected chart which looks like the Y axis is broken. See below screen shot:

Demo: Break the Y axis with a secondary axis in chart

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arrow blue right bubbleBreak axis with adding a dummy axis in chart

Supposing there is an extraordinary big data in the source data as below screen shot, we can add a dummy axis with a break to make your chart axis precise enough.

1. To break the Y axis, we have to determine the min value, break value, restart value, and max value in the new broken axis. In our example we get four values in the Range A11:B14 as left screen shot shown.

2. We need to refigure out the source data as below screenshots shown:
(1) In Cell C2 enter =IF(B2>$B$13,$B$13,B2), and drag the Fill Handle to the Range C2:C7;
(2) In Cell D2 enter =IF(B2>$B$13,100,NA()), and drag the Fill Handle to the Range D2:D7;
(3) In Cell E2 enter =IF(B2>$B$13,B2-$B$12-1,NA()), and drag the Fill Handle to the Range E2:E7.

Now the new source data will show as below screen shot:

3. Create a chart with new source data. Select Range A1:A7, then select Range C1:E7 with holding the Ctrl key, and insert a chart with clicking the Insert Column Chart (or Column)> Stacked Column.

4. In the new chart, right click the Break series (the red one) and select Format Data Series from the right-clicking menu.

5. In the opening Format Data Series pane in Excel 2013, click the Color button on the Fill & Line tab, and then select the same color as background color (White in our example). (Note: If you are using Excel 2007 or 2010, it will open the Format Data Series dialog box. Click Fill in left bar, and then check No fill option, at last close the dialog box.)
And change the After series' color to the same color as Before series with same way. In our example, we select Blue.

Excel 2013 or higher versions:

Excel 2007 and 2010:

6. Now we need to figure out a source data for the dummy axis. We list the data in the Range I1:K13 as below screen shot shown:
(1) In the Labels column, List all labels based on the min value, break value, restart value, and max value we listed in Step 1.
(2) In the Xpos column, type 0 to all cells except the broken cell. In broken cell type 0.25. See left screen shot.
(3) In the Ypos column, type numbers based on the labels of Y axis in the stacked chart.

7. Right click the chart and select Select Data from right-clicking menu.

8. In the popping up Select Data Source dialog box, click the Add button. Now in the opening Edit Series dialog box, select Cell I1 (For Broken Y Axis) as series name, and select Range K3:K13 (Ypos Column) as series values, and click OK > OK to close two dialog boxes.

9. Now get back to the chart, right click the new added series, and select Change Series Chart Type from right-clicking menu.

10. In the opening Change Chart Type dialog box in Excel 2013, go to the Choose the chart type and axis for your data series section, click the For Broken Y axis box, and select the Scatter with Straight Line from the drop down list, and click the OK button.

Note: If you are using Excel 2007 and 2010, in the Change Chart Type dialog box, click X Y (Scatter) in left bar, and then click to select the Scatter with Straight Line from the drop down list, and click the OK button.

11. Right click the new series once again, and select the Select Data from right-clicking menu.

12. In the Select Data Source dialog box, click to select the For broken Y axis in the Legend Entries (Series) section, and click the Edit button. Then in the opening Edit Series dialog box, select Range J3:J13 (Xpos column) as Series X values, and click OK > OK to close two dialog boxes.

13. Right click the new scatter with straight line and select Format Data Series in right-clicking menu, and then in the opening Format Data Series pane in Excel 2013, click the color button on the Fill & Line tab, and then select the same color as the Before columns. In our example, select Blue. (Note: If you are using Excel 2007 or 2010, in the Format Data Series dialog box, click Line color in left bar, check Solid line option, click the Color button and select the same color as before columns, and close the dialog box.)

Excel 2013 or higher versions:

Excel 2007 and 2010:

14. Keep selecting the scatter with straight line, and then click the Add Chart Element > Data Labels > Left on the Design tab in Excel 2013(or Data Labels > Left on Layout tab in Excel 2007 and 2010).

15. Change all labels based on the Labels column. For example, select the label at the top in the chart, and then type = in the format bar, then select the Cell I13, and press the Enter key.

16. Delete some chart elements. For example, select original vertical Y axis, and then press the Delete key.

At last, you will see your chart with a broken Y axis is shown as below screen shot.

Demo: Break the Y axis with adding a dummy axis in chart

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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    G · 1 years ago
    This is fantastic, thank you!

    For what it's worth I disagree with the example used given that you can't now really compare the results of the graph with one being split and not the others. A better example I believe is where you have very high values and small changes between the different entities - thus having a zero on the Y axis and splitting it at, say 100 then starting again at 10,000. It makes it very clear to the audience that the y axis is not complete and thus to notice the fact it does not start at zero (something lots of people simply don't notice).

    I have slightly refined the deviance in the vertical line so there is a negative value and a positive value to achieve a zigzag rather than a, for want of a better expression, greater than symbol >.

    Additionally users may find that applying a gradient colour to the 'break series' might be effective - i.e. top and bottom colour as per the bars and the central colour white (or background if different) so the bar fades out and back in again at the split - thus further highlighting the 'gap'.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    ezgik · 1 years ago
    i can not to the if function as you show.
    there is something wrong with the functions you gave.
    (1) In Cell C2 enter =IF(B2>$B$13,$B$13,B2), and drag the Fill Handle to the Range C2:C7;

    (2) In Cell D2 enter =IF(B2>$B$13,100,NA()), and drag the Fill Handle to the Range D2:D7;

    (3) In Cell E2 enter =IF(B2>$B$13,B2-$B$12-1,NA()), and drag the Fill Handle to the Range E2:E7.
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Sash · 1 years ago
      You have to change it to: IF(B2>B13;B13;B2) using the semicolon
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    John Doe · 1 years ago
    This is insanely complicated, there must be and easier way.
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Stev · 1 years ago
      There is. It's called GraphPad Prism.