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Charts in PowerPoint, Vary Colors by Point Option in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows

Learn to change the color of a series when you have just one series with multiple categories in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows.


Product/Version: PowerPoint 2010 for Windows

OS: Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8

When a chart contains only one series and several categories, then by default individual chart segments may use the same fill color (such as individual columns in a column chart) or varying colors (such as segments in a pie chart), depending upon the chart type you are working with. If your chart uses the same colored series in all of the categories, it can make your chart look dull (see Figure 2 later on this page) -- it also does not provide a proper way for your audience to compare the individual series' elements.

PowerPoint 2010 lets you resolve this problem using two ways. The first way is to select each category element (series) individually and change its fill color -- which is time consuming. The second option is using the Vary colors by point option -- this option fills individual category elements with different colors in just a single step. Another benefit of using this option is that, since these changed colors are Theme based, if you apply a new Theme to the presentation, these colors change automatically to match the new Theme colors.

Before you proceed further, there are certain points you should be aware of -- the Vary colors by point option is:

  • Not enabled by default for Column, Bar, and Line charts -- but can be turned on
  • Enabled by default for Pie and Donut charts -- but can be turned off
  • Does not work for other chart types such as Area, XY Scatter, Stock, etc.

When you insert a new chart in PowerPoint 2010, it may look like the one you see in Figure 1. As you can see, this is a column chart in which there is a set of 3 series in each of the 4 categories. The color of these 3 series represent the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Accent colors in the active Theme respectively, from left to right. You cannot really vary colors of all columns representing Series 1 in this case since that will end up confusing your audience!

Chart in PowerPoint
Figure 1: Chart in PowerPoint

However, the Vary colors by point option works for a chart with just a single series, and two or more categories, as shown in Figure 2.

One series and four categories
Figure 2: One series and four categories

Follow these steps to learn how to change the color of category elements in a chart with just a single series and multiple categories:

  1. Select the data series by clicking on it (see Figure 2). Alternatively you can select the data series from the Chart elements drop-down list.
  2. Activate the Chart Tools Format tab of the Ribbon as shown highlighted in red, within Figure 3. Towards the extreme left of this Ribbon tab, within the Current Selection group, make sure that you have the correct data series selected as shown highlighted in blue, within Figure 3 -- then, click the Format Selection button below it (see Figure 3).

    Format Selection button to be clicked with the proper data series selected
    Figure 3: Format Selection button to be clicked with the proper data series selected
  3. This summons the Format Data Series dialog box. Make sure that the Fill option in the sidebar is selected as shown in Figure 4.

    Format Data Series dialog box
    Figure 4: Format Data Series dialog box
  4. Select the Vary colors by point check box as shown in Figure 5 (highlighted in red). Remember that you can see this option only when there is just a single series in your chart. Then, click the Close button (highlighted in blue within Figure 5) within the Format Data Series dialog box.

    Vary colors by point check box selected
    Figure 5: Vary colors by point check box selected

    This will change the color of individual category elements to match the accent colors of the active Theme of your presentation as shown in Figure 6 (compare with Figure 2). Also compare the Legend in both Figures 2 and 6 -- you will see that this has also been updated to match the varied fills used.

    Chart Series colors changed after selecting the Vary colors by point check box
    Figure 6: Chart Series colors changed after selecting the Vary colors by point check box

    Note: So, how did PowerPoint decide which colors should be used as fills for the individual series' elements? If you look at Figure 1, you will notice that the multiple fill colors used are the same as those shown in Figure 6, above. As you can see, the colors of second and third series in Figure 1 have been applied to the second and third category in Figure 6. These color values are sourced from the active Theme -- apply a new Theme to your presentation and these colors will change!
  5. Save your presentation.
Note: If the selected Series of your Chart are filled with any other fill than Automatic, like a pattern, gradient, a picture or a solid color fill, then selecting the Vary color by point check box will immediately change the fill to Automatic.

See Also:

Vary Colors by Point Option for Charts in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Charts in PowerPoint - Vary Color by Point Option in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003 for Windows
PowerPoint 2016 and 2011 for Mac
PowerPoint Online for Windows and Mac

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