How to Make Surface Chart

You are going to learn how to insert a surface chart, and it will be easy to perform. For you to insert a surface chart, you need to have data available.

Data preparation

The data would be used for creating the chart and should look like this:

data set to create a surface chart

Note: Before you create a surface chart, there must be at least two different data points.

Mark all the data, from beginning to end, like this:

marked data

Inserting the surface chart

Click on Insert (1), and then on Recommended Charts (2).

ribbon insert recommended chart

Click on All Charts (1), and then Surface (2), and choose the design of the 3D surface chart (3), and then click ok (4).

insert a surface chart in excel

The surface chart is ready. Now you can proceed with the formatting of your surface chart.

surface chart exampleFormat the surface chart

The surface chart is very sensitive to outliers. One value significantly different from the others may distort the visibility of the surface chart.

At this stage, you should look at the data. Perhaps there is a typo there? If so, it should be corrected so that there is not too much data difference.

This should improve the visibility of the surface chart. To improve it even more, the axis scale should be corrected. The minimum value and the maximum value should match your data.

Excel Surface chart

You can confirm for yourself that data visibility is now much better.

If you are still not satisfied with the data visibility, you can change it with this clever trick.

Click on your surface graph. Go to Ribbon> Design> Switch Row / Column.

Excel switch rows columns

Now you will get the view from a different point of view as the columns and rows have been swapped.

If the data on your plot is covered you can also flip the scales. Just click on it and choose from the menu:

  • series in reverse order
  • values in reverse order
  • categories in reverse order

Depending on what you want to change. Try all of these options and choose the one that offers the highest visibility.

If none of these possibilities meet your expectations, you can also change your data table. It's a good idea to sort the data from largest to smallest. The largest is on the left and the smallest on the right. So that the values on the chart do not overlap.

Things to remember

The surface plot is best suited for plotting rare phenomena or values that rarely differ from each other. You can use the surface chart to show rainfall or sales values. You can easily see if sales are significantly higher on one of the days (for example, due to a concert in your city that was attended by many people).

Remember that there are four different types of surface graphs. Choose the one that best meets your expectations. In this Excel charting lesson, I showed the 3D surface chart, but there are also: Wireframe 3D Surface, Contour, and Wireframe Contour.