Trying to create a bar graph using Canva?
Do you create the bar chart inside Canva, copy it in from Excel, or some other way? I have a few suggestions.
In today’s post:
How to create bar charts in Canva using…
- the Canva Chart Builder;
- Pixel Math.
- *Bonus 6th Way* Datawrapper.
But first, let’s talk about the Data I’ll be using for this tutorial.
For this set of charts I’m going to use some CDC data on the US death rate per 100,000 for the years 2016 – 2020. I pulled the data from the CDC’s WONDER database.
Citation: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2020 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2021. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2020, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html on Apr 6, 2022 9:20:01 AM
The Canva Chart Builder
So Canva has a built in chart creator. Let’s just go ahead and start with that. You’ll find it in the Elements tab by searching for Charts.
For this bar chart I went with the basic column chart.
The chart populates with some fake data. I went ahead and cleared that data, then pasted in my own. You’ll also notice that you can also directly connect to data using Google sheets.
Canva’s chart creator is nothing fancy. There are very few things that you can do with the chart itself.
Conclusion. It works in a pinch, but you have far less control over the chart than you would with other tools. One of the things that I found particularly annoying is the inability to isolate a single bar and change it into another color. That’s something I do all the time with bar charts, and I’d have to hack the bar chart a bit with additional elements to make it look the way I want.
Starting with Excel
So I think at this point most evaluators would just fall back to their comfort zone and open up Excel. Even if they were ultimately trying to create an infographic using Canva. So let’s walk through how you might do that.
Simple Copy Paste
Easiest way to move a chart from Excel to Canva is just to Copy the chart in Excel then paste it into Canva.
And if you like the way your chart looks in Excel, this works just fine.
One thing to note is that you lose all of your ability to edit pieces of the chart post-Excel. This is because the copy/paste approach uploads the chart as a PNG file, which is a type of pixel based image.
This could be a good thing for you, because you don’t have to worry about any of your elements changing. But that also limits your ability to tweak the chart, and you could ultimately end up with a pixelated image.
Exporting an SVG
Another way to go would be to export your chart from Excel as an SVG. Simply right click on your chart and click “Save as Picture.” Then set the file type to SVG.
When we drop the svg into Canva, we end up with an image that can be stretched or shrunk without a loss in quality. Although the fonts you use might look a little wonky if the same font is not also found in Canva.
You also get very basic color controls (i.e. I can change the blue color to any other color).
There is another little trick we can do with this. Simply color a bar you want to highlight in Excel with a different color. Then take the same step to save it as an SVG.
Now when you drop the SVG into Canva, you’ll be able to change both colors!
See, here is the same chart but I turned the lighter blue to a darker blue and the orange to a red. Without needing to go back to Excel.
So if that works, why not just rainbow color your chart?
This might be the only time I ever suggest you try to multi-color your bar charts.
Unfortunately, even though the chart ends up in Canva as an SVG, there must be some color limit. Because instead of being able to change all the bar colors, I now can’t change any of them…
Conclusion. Sure, it works. But you’re really still just creating the chart in Excel.
Starting with PowerPoint
Okay, so I know it may seem like PowerPoint and Excel charts would convert the same way into Canva. But that’s not entirely true.
I took my Excel chart and pasted it into a new PowerPoint then saved the file. Then I uploaded the PowerPoint pptx file right into Canva.
At first it was buggy, but then I changed the bar color and the chart appeared. Not only did it convert, it converted directly into Canva’s chart creator format. With all the data embedded behind the scenes.
So now it works just like Canva’s chart creator.
Conclusion. Yes, it works. But it ends up working just like it would with Canva’s built in chart creator. Meaning a reduced ability to change much at all.
So Canva actually acquired the data visualization chart builder Flourish. You can access the integration down at the bottom of the menu page where it says “More.”
Using Flourish (which is currently Free to use) is more an integration than something you would do directly within Canva. That means you have to register for a free Flourish account and connect it to your Canva account.
Then from there, the easiest way to start is by choosing a template.
I chose a simple column chart.
Even though it’s a simple chart, there are tons of options you have control over. This can be both a benefit and a curse. Because you have to sift through all the options to find the ones you want to change. It can be a bit overwhelming.
After you are done creating your chart you can click the “export & publish” button to add your chart to Canva.
Ultimately though, once you connect your Canva and Flourish accounts, you have access to all of your Flourish visualizations from directly within Canva.
All changes you want to make to your chart, except for size and placement, need to be done inside the Flourish editor.
Conclusion. Using flourish might seem like overkill, and sometimes it will be overkill. But you can do things with Flourish that you can’t do with a lot of the previously mentioned tools. Flourish can even be used to create interactive visuals, which will then live within your Canva designs. This means you can use Flourish mixed with Canva to build full fledged interactive dashboards.
Okay, so I don’t know if it’s because I’m a big nerd, but this tends to be the way I create most basic charts. In a nutshell, it’s like a digital version of using a pencil alongside a ruler.
I start with a shape (usually a rectangle).
Then I will measure the length of that shape based on the number of Pixels shown when I stretch the image on Canva. The current pixel dimensions of my square canva page are 1080 by 1080. My 5 bars will range in size from 849 to 1027. Each person gets a pixel and I still have a little room at the top and bottom of the page.
You’ll the see the sizing guide pop up as you stretch a bar. I’ll create the first bar, then copy and paste. Zooming into the page will help you size the bars better as you get closer to your target number of pixels.
Then once I’m done, I have a chart that’s way too big (or sometimes too small). But this is easy enough to solve, I just group all the bars together.
After you do your first sets of pixel measurement, you can group your bars and scale them up or down. Just keep in mind that if your numbers are not set (as in you will likely be changing the data in your chart at some point) you are not going to want to change the scale.
Doing my charts this way I have almost complete control over their style. I just need to overlay some text for the labels and title.
And then once you have your chart finished, just keep the elements grouped and you can move it all around the page, stretch it, shrink it, change the colors, or change the fonts.
Conclusion. Okay, so this isn’t for everyone. With pixel math you are relying on your own mathematical skills and grasp of geometry. But I find for simple charts, sometimes it’s easier to just measure out some bars than try to bend a chart creation tool to your will.
Bonus: Create a Bar Graph using Datawrapper
Datawrapper is a similar web-based chart building tool to Flourish. While this tool is not owned by Canva we can still use it in a very similar way.
Go to Datawrapper’s “Product” menu and choose Charts. Then “Build your own chart.”
One of the cool things about Datawrapper is that you can create charts without even registering for an account. But having a free account does give you access to all of your graphs, charts, and maps in a personal dashboard.
Working with datawrapper is a simple step by step process.
You don’t even choose your chart type until step 3, which is where you’ll do most of your edits.
Not only do I really like the simplicity of Datawrapper, they also put some thought into building accessibility considerations into the tool.
For instance, check out the “Colorblind check.” This is a really effective and simple way to show how your color appear for people with different types of colorblindness.
With the last step you can choose to publish & embed, or download the data as a PNG. The PNG options let you change the pixel dimensions and scale. They also let you download the chart with a transparent background.
Publishing the visual will give you a link to your visualization and an embed code. But you’ll actually only need the share link to embed the visual inside of Canva.
In Canva, go to Apps and search for “Embed.”
When asked to copy and paste a web link, paste in the datawrapper link. And now, just like it was with Flourish, you will have an interactive bar graph embedded inside your Canva design.
So which chart creation tool is the best?
The tool you like the best.
I really wish the native Canva chart builder was better. Just being able to isolate the individual bars would make it far more effective. But any of the solutions above will work.
There are also tons of other chart creation tools out there that can be used alongside Canva. From R to Tableau to Google Sheets.