How to Add, Change or Remove Error Bars in Excel

Adding error bars to your chart will display the margin of error, confidence intervals, and standard deviation. It is a powerful tool for analyzing your data and can be used on almost every data point of your chart.

This guide shows you how the process of adding, customizing or changing error bars in Excel.  

Add Error Bars in Excel

There are a couple of ways of adding an error bar to a chart in Excel.

Method 1: Using the Chart Design Tab 

  1. First, left-click on your graph to select it.
  2. Click on the Chart Design tab on top of your sheet. You will find various options to design your chart on the ribbon. 
  3. Click on the Add Chart Element option in the top ribbon.

    Left Click Add Chart Element to Add Error Bars
    Click on the Add chart element option on the Chart Design tab above the ribbon.
  4. A drop-down menu will appear. Click on Error Bars. Next, select the type of “error bar” you wish to add, for example, Standard ErrorPercentage, or Standard Deviation.

    Error Bars Appear Using Add Chart Element
    For example, you can choose an error bar to represent standard error or standard deviation.
  5. After selecting an option, you will see error bars appear on your chart to represent the errors or deviations.

Method 2: Using Chart Elements

You can also add error bars by clicking on the Chart Elements button on the right side of the chart when you click on the chart area. 

  1. First, click on the graph.
  2. You will see an icon with a Green Plus symbol. Left-click on this Chart Elements button.

    Left Click on Chart Elements
    Proceed by clicking on the “Chart Elements” button.
  3. A menu of options will appear that lists different types of chart elements such as gridlines, axes, axes titles, labels, etc.

    Chart Elements list of options
    A list of options appears when we click the button.
  4. Click on the check box next to the Error Bars option.

    Error Bars Appear Using Chart Elements
    Error Bars appear on the chart when we check the box next to “Error Bars”.
  5. Alternatively, by clicking on the black arrow next to the error bars option, you will find a list of types of error bars you can choose from.

    Percentage Type Error Bars Using Chart Elements
    The type of error bar you and the data it represents can be customized by clicking on the black arrow shown above.

Customize Error Bars in Excel

This section will explain how to customize the error bars in your chart. This includes:

  • Changing the visual style of the error bars. 
  • Changing the visual effects applied to the error bars. 
  • Changing the direction, end style, and error amount represented by the error bars. 

Changing the visual style of the error bars

When adding error bars, Excel gives you the option to change visual and aesthetic aspects such as the type of line used for the error bar, color, transparency, the width of the error bar, and the style and size of the arrows.

Follow these steps:

  1. Left-click on the chart. 
  2. You will see an icon with a Green Plus symbol. Click on it.

    Left Click on Chart Elements to change
    Proceed by clicking on the “Chart Elements” button.
  3. Click on the black arrow next to the Error Bars option in the list of chart elements. Next, click on More Options…

    More Options Button
    You can access the styling options for error bars by clicking on “More Options…”
  4. A Format Error Bars panel will appear on the right side of the sheet.
    Format Error Bars Pane through Chart Elements
    A Format Error Bars Pane appears on the right side of the screen.

    Alternatively, this panel can be accessed by clicking on the 2D graph area, then going to Add Chart Element > Error Bars > More Error Bar Options.

    Format Error Bars Pane through Add Chart Elements
    This is an alternate route to access the “Format Error Bars” panel.
  5. Here, you will find the Fill and Line tab that has the options you need to change the visual style of the error bars.

    Fill and Line Options
    The options under the File and Line tab can style your error bars.

Part 2: Changing visual effects applied to the error bars

Add a shadow or glow effect to your error bar, or soften/strengthen the edges of the error bar lines.

  1. Go to the Format Error Bars panel as shown in Part 1. 
  2. Left-click on the Effects tab icon (in a pentagon shape).

    Effects Tab
    The shadow, glow, and soft edges options are present under Effect options.
  3. Under the Shadow effect options, you can change the color, transparency, angle, distance, size, and blur aspects of your desired shadow effect.

    Shadow Effect Options
    Here is the list of options to customize shadow effects.
  4. Under the Glow effect options, you can change the color, size, and transparency of your desired glow effect.

    Glow Effect Options
    Here is the list of options to customize Glow effects.
  5. Under Soft Edges, you can change the size of the edges of your error bars.

    Soft Edges Effect Options
    Here is the list of options to customize soft edges. 

Part 3: Changing direction, end style, and error amount of the error bars

This section shows you how to change the direction of your error bar (i.e., plus or minus), the end style of your error bar, and the error amount of your error bar. Follow these steps.

  1. Navigate to the Format Error Bars panel as shown in Part 1. 
  2. Left-click on the Error Bar Options icon (in the shape of three bar graphs next to each other).

    Error Bar Options Tab
    Here you will find extra options to customize your error bars.
  3. You can change the direction of the error bars to display either positive error, negative error, or both. You can also edit the end style of the error bar and change the amount of error represented by them.
    Implementing Minus Direction and Fixed Error Amount
    By changing the direction of the horizontal error bar to minus and changing the error value to a fixed value of 15, we can observe the corresponding changes on the error bars.

    You can also use the custom error amount option to specify values for positive and negative errors.

    Custom Values for Error Bars
    We can specify values for the positive and negative directions of the Error Bar. In our example, they are 18 and 28, respectively.

    Final Changes for Custom Values
    We can see the changes implemented in the error bar.

Remove Error Bars in Excel

There are two main ways to delete error bars in excel:

Method 1: Using the Chart Design Tab

We can remove an error bar from a chart by using the chart design tab.

  1. First, left-click on the chart area by moving your cursor over the 2D graph. 
  2. A chart design tab will appear on top of your sheet (in the ribbon) with various options to design your chart. Click on Add Chart Element.

    Left Click Add Chart Element to Remove Error Bars
    Click on the Add chart element option on the Chart Design tab above the ribbon.
  3. In the drop-down menu, click on Error Bars
  4. In the new set of error bar options, select None for the error bar type. This will delete the error bars from your chart.

    None Type of Error Bars to Remove Error Bars
    The Error Bar is removed when we choose the “None” type.

Method 2: Using Chart Elements

  1. Left-click on your graph.
  2.  You will see a button with a Green Plus icon. Click on it.

    Left Click on Chart Elements to change
    By toggling the check box next to “Error Bars”, you can enable or disable error bars on your chart.
  3. In the Chart Elements menu, uncheck the box next to Error Bars. The error bars will now be removed from your chart.

    Final Removed Error Bars
    Unchecking the Error Bars option disables the error bars and causes them to disappear from the chart.

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