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How to Make Scatter Charts and Bubble Charts in Google Sheets

Unsure which chart type to use? Click here to find the right chart for your data and the ideas that you want to convey.

One of the most common types of charts is the scatter chart. It visualizes the data as a set of points plotted but without a line connecting each of them. A related type of chart is the bubble chart, where a third set of information is visualized as the size of the circles plotted. Scatter charts, especially with trendlines, are most commonly used in technical fields such as science and engineering. 


Scatter charts consist of points representing different data points in an x-y plane. The scatter charts are used in two ways:

  1. An independent variable on the x-axis and a dependent variable on the y-axis - Here, the scatter chart is similar to line charts. In fact, their only difference would be aesthetics. Depending on your field, there might be a preference towards using either the line chart or the scatter chart. 
  2. Two variables independent of each other - These data points align to form a pattern that relates the two different variables or metrics represented by the axes.


In general, scatter charts are used to visualize the correlation between two metrics.

In addition to the generic scatter chart, Google Sheets also offers the bubble chart. A bubble chart works similarly to a scatter chart except that it visualizes another set of data as the size of the “point,” or the bubble. Thus, bubble charts visualize three sets of related data. 


The icons of the scatter chart types offered by Google Sheets. From left to right: scatter chart, bubble chart.

In this tutorial, we will learn how to make scatter charts and bubble charts in Google Sheets.

How to format the data for scatter charts and bubble charts


The same rules in formatting the data for line charts are applicable for scatter charts. Set the first column for the values of the x-axis and set the second column for the values of the y-axis. Additional columns can be added for additional sets of y-axis values.


For the bubble charts, you need to set four columns for a single data series:

X-axis is for the column denoting the data for x-axis.

Y-axis is for the column denoting the data for y-axis. 

Series is for marking  whether the data belongs to a certain series. 

Size is for the corresponding size of the bubble for a given set of x and y values. 


If you set the columns to follow this order, Google Sheets will immediately format the bubble chart properly after selecting the Bubble chart option. In our example for the bubble chart, we intentionally did not follow this proper order so that we could show the steps for adjusting the columns properly after creating the chart. 

How to make scatter charts

Step 1: Select the data that you want to plot.

Selected data to be plotted.


Step 2: Go to Insert, then select Charts.

Insert, then Chart option.


Step 3: The scatter plot will not be used by default. Go to the Chart editor sidebar, then Setup tab (which is often selected by default), then click the drop-down box below Chart type. Scroll down to find the Scatter chart option. 


Chart editor, Chart type, Scatter chart.


Here is the final result. There are some modifications that you can make to improve the appearance of your chart:

Final scatter chart

How to make scatter charts with more than one data series

Step 1: Select the data that you want to plot.

Original data to be plotted. Two data series are included.


Step 2: Go to Insert then select Charts.

Insert option on the main menu selected, Chart option highlighted.


Step 3: The scatter plot will not be used by default. Go to the Chart editor sidebar, then Setup tab (which is often selected by default), then click the drop-down box below Chart type. Scroll down to find the Scatter chart option. 

Chart editor, Chart type, Scatter chart.


Here is the final result. Check our basics tutorial to know how to improve the chart.

Final scatter chart showing two data series with their own color scheme.


How to make bubble charts 

Step 1: Select the data that you want to plot, then go to Insert and select Charts.

Data selected, Insert, then Chart option highlighted.


Step 2: The bubble chart will not be used by default. Go to the Chart editor sidebar, then choose the Setup tab (which is often selected by default), then click the drop-down box below Chart type. Scroll down to find the Bubble charts option. 

Chart editor, Chart type, Bubble chart.


Step 3: More often than not, Google Sheets will not be able to properly process the data initially. 

“Column Region must be numeric” error when the column data type does not match what Google Sheets expects.


We need to manually adjust the columns so that Google Sheets can properly create a bubble chart. On the Chart editor sidebar, select the Setup tab (if not yet shown by default) then look down to find the X-axis, Y-axis, Series, and Size:

X-axis is for the column denoting the data for x-axis. The Year column goes here.

Y-axis is for the column denoting the data for y-axis. The Change column goes here.

Series is for marking  whether the data belongs to a certain series. The Region column goes here.

Size is for the corresponding size of the bubble for a given set of x and y values. The Total column goes here.


We will match the columns accordingly:

Chart editor, Setup, X-axis, Y-axis, Series, Size column options. 


The final chart:

Final bubble chart.


Check our basics tutorial to learn how to modify a chart’s appearance. 

How to make bubble charts with more than one data series

There is almost no difference between creating a bubble chart with a single data series and creating one with multiple data sets. The major difference, however, comes from the way in which the data for the additional data series is added. In adding another data series, there is no need to add extra columns. The Series column serves as the information that differentiates the data series included in the bubble chart. For additional data series, add a different value to the Series column. For our example, we want to add the total population of the Mid-Atlantic States and their changes in the population:

The data with the series column having different values for each data series.


As you can see, we marked the data for New England as New England and the data for Mid-Atlantic as Mid Atlantic in the Series column. They even had the same values for the X-axis column (the Year). The resulting bubble chart is as follows:

Final bubble chart showing two distinct data series.


Check our basics tutorial to know how to improve the chart.

Sample sheet

Here is the sample sheet that you can check:

Scatter Bubble Plot Sample


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