What is a graphic object in Excel terms? Excel graphic objects will display data with greater importance or visual appeal. There are 6 different types of graphical objects in Excel.

Excel Graphic Object Types

  • Pictures
  • Clipart
  • Shapes
  • Smart Art
  • Word Art
  • Screenshots

In this article I will demonstrate how to use some simple shapes to display a total inside a grouped set of shapes to make it highly visible to a user looking for information.

We will start with some sample data that lists some bills due with amounts. The graphic object we will use will make the total amount due very easy to locate. Using this type of Excel Object also allows for you to drag and drop this item to move it around your spreadsheet. The sample data is below.

Graphic Object Sample Data
Graphic Object Sample Data
Final Result - Graphic Object
Final Result – Graphic Object

Inserting Shapes

First we need to add a shape. The shape I picked was a rectangle but this works with any of the available shapes. Use your imagination. To add a shape click on the INSERT Menu then in the ILLUSTRATIONS icon group choose Shapes. As you can see from the screenshot below there are many shapes to choose from.

Excel Shapes Menu
Excel Shapes Menu

I selected the rectangle and dragged the cursor to adjust the size of the shape below my total cell as seen below.

Excel Rectangle Shape
Excel Rectangle Shape

To make the desired effect I am looking for I am going to need a duplicate of this shape. To make a duplicate of your graphic object right click it and choose copy. Then right click a blank area of your worksheet and click paste. (Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V for those that like to use the shortcut keys)

Duplicate Shape
Duplicate Shape

We can now adjust the style of the box by clicking on the shape and then on the new Menu Tab that appears DRAWING TOOLS then FORMAT then Shape Styles icon group. There are many pre-defined styles to choose from. Select whatever color you prefer.

Graphic Object Styles
Graphic Object Styles

I changed them both to a different color. One as an outline and one with the color fully filled in. We will see why shortly.

Adjusted Colors
Adjusted Colors

Next I resized the filled in rectangle and dragged it up toward the top of the outlined shape. This will be used as a Title box for the content of our box.

Resized and Moved
Resized and Moved

Add a Text Box

Now we need some text that will act as the Title. Click on one of the shapes. The DRAWING TOOLS and FORMAT menu will appear. Click on the Text Box icon in the Insert Shapes icon group as highlighted below. Then click a blank area of your worksheet to draw a text box. You can adjust the size of the text box as well as type some text to appear.

Add Text Box
Add Text Box

Drag and drop your text box over the filled in color shape as desired. You can also adjust the font, color, size, etc.. of your title.

Adjusted and Moved Title
Adjusted and Moved Title

Next I will create another text box to display the actual number. Creating the Text box is done the same as above. The only difference in this one is that we want the number to be a cell reference rather than typed text. If the amounts change this text box should adjust accordingly.

To get a cell reference into the text box, I found that it is not as straight forward as is should be. The steps below worked well for me. First create your text box then click into the text area.

Text Area Cell Reference
Text Area Cell Reference

Rather than typing what you want to appear click into the formula bar and type =$D$2 and press enter. This will make the text in the text box link to the value currently in cell D2.

Cell Reference in Text Box
Cell Reference in Text Box

Drag and Drop the Text Box to where it is supposed to appear and adjust the font, font size, color, etc… Your graphic object should now look something like the below image.

Final Result - Graphic Object
Final Result – Graphic Object

Group the shapes together

If you need to move your graphic object around your worksheet the last step is to Group all of the objects together. To do this, click one of your shapes then hold Ctrl and click the remaining items. Then on the DRAWING TOOLS – FORMAT menu in the Arrange icon group click the Group icon. This will group all of your shapes and text boxes together. You can now drag and drop the entire object around as needed.

I hope this helps some of my past, present and future students. Please post any questions or comments below. See more of my Excel Tips and Tricks. For some of our new online training available including Microsoft Excel and Word see Online Learning from ITFixed