Excel/PowerPoint – Distortion Free Image Column Fill (Infographic style)
In an earlier blog, I showed you how to covert a standard stacked column chart into something that looked more like a battery infographic, to create a more visually interesting slide. This time I’ll show you how you can replace columns in a chart with an image but set it up so that you don’t get image distortion which is created by images being stretched or compressed by the different values in your table.
Let’s start with the basic chart.
As with all charts….it’s done its job but that is where it ends.
You can then format the chart to contain an image going through the normal FORMAT DATA SERIES > FILL > PICTURE OR TEXTURE FILL and select an image from your computer. Unfortunately, although it “works”, the image becomes distorted – higher values stretch the image and smaller values compress it, giving you this;
You could argue it doesn’t make much difference, but people will invariably read more into the image than is necessary – “oooh….I wonder what a blunt tip means?”, “does the size of the rubber tell us anything?”
So you need to find a way of keeping the proportions.
To achieve this we need to create three separate images;
- Rubber tip
- Main body of the pencil
- Pencil tip
In case you are wondering, I used Photoshop to cut out the pencil and then split it into 3 sections. Not everyone has access to Photoshop, so you may need to use some more basic cropping tools. By using Photoshop I am able to control size and blank space around my cut-out shapes more easily.
It also means we need to split out the data. At the moment we have a single series – one value per month in our table.
This now needs to be split into three to match the number of images we have. Let’s give a value of 10 to represent the tip and 10 to represent the rubber end. So our new data table now looks like this:
Now re-create the table, but this time use a STACKED COLUMN chart. You should now get this:
As before, you now need to format each series by inserting the appropriate image into each series i.e. image of the tip in the top series, the main body of the pencil in the middle series and finally the rubber tip into the bottom series. Once complete you will get an undistorted image in your columns, with each tip and rubber end the same size.
Take away lines and axes, add some values above the pencils and you end up with what appears to be an infographic of some sort, ideal for a PowerPoint presentation: a nice clean image free of clutter and unnecessary detail which hopefully will be a bit more memorable than the default offering in Excel.
Here is another example using exactly the same principles but applied to a bar chart;