How to make heat map in Excel

Creating a heat map in Excel is a great way to visually represent data by color-coding values, making it easier to understand patterns, trends, and outliers in a dataset. Here’s how you can create a heat map using Excel’s Conditional Formatting feature:

Step 1: Prepare Your Data

Enter your data into a range of cells in Excel. For a heat map, you typically have rows and columns of numbers.

Step 2: Select Your Data

Click and drag to select the cells containing the data you want to include in your heat map.

Step 3: Apply Conditional Formatting

  • With your data selected, go to the Home tab on the ribbon.
  • Click on Conditional Formatting.
  • Hover over Color Scales in the drop-down menu. Excel offers a variety of pre-set color scale options that automatically apply a color gradient based on your data’s values.
  • Choose a color scale that suits your preference. Excel will immediately apply the color scale to your selected data range, creating a basic heat map. The colors represent the value’s magnitude relative to other values in your selection, with different colors indicating higher or lower values.

Step 4: Customize the Color Scale (Optional)

For more control over your heat map’s appearance, you can customize the color scale:

  • Again, select your data and go to Conditional Formatting > Color Scales > More Rules….
  • Choose a rule type. For heat maps, “2-Color Scale” or “3-Color Scale” are commonly used.
  • Customize the colors for the minimum, midpoint, and maximum values as desired. You can also adjust the values or percentiles that these colors represent.
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Step 5: Adjust Your Heat Map (Optional)

You may want to make further adjustments to improve your heat map’s readability or appearance:

  • Format Cells: Change the font color or add borders for better visibility.
  • Adjust Scale: If the default scaling doesn’t fit your needs, you can manually set the minimum and maximum values or adjust the midpoint for a more accurate representation.
  • Add Labels: Depending on your preference and the heat map’s purpose, adding labels (data values) within the colored cells can provide clarity. You can do this by simply ensuring the original data in the cells is not overwritten or hidden by the color scaling.