How to create an area chart

(Stacked) Area charts are great to show how a total and their shares developed over time. Think about it as a combination of a line chart (change over time) and a column chart (distributions & comparisons). If you're not sure if an area chart is the best choice for your data, visit our article "What to consider when creating area charts". 

This guide will show you how to create your first area chart with Datawrapper. This chart type is feature rich and fully responsive, meaning they will adapt to different screen sizes. In this particular example, we take a closer look at carbon emissions between 1850 and 2014.


Preparing and importing the data

If you want to create this chart type, your data needs to be in a certain format. You'll need:

  • One header row containing descriptive labels ("Year", "Liquid fuel", etc.)
  • One column with dates or timestamps.
    This will define the horizontal axis. In our case, we use years.
  • At least one column containing numeric values.
    The values in these columns will define the height of the areas for each year.

That's part of the data we used to create the chart at the top of the page. You can find the whole data set in our data samples in step 1: Upload Data.

Year Liquid fuel Solid fuel Gas fuel Cement production Gas flaring
2010 3107 3812 1696 446 67
2011 3134 4055 1756 494 64
2012 3200 4106 1783 519 65
2013 3220 4126 1806 554 68
2014 3280 4117 1823 568 68

Source: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center

Once you prepared your data, create a new chart in Datawrapper. You can do so by going to our homepage and clicking on "Create a chart". In Step 1: Upload, copy & paste your dataset, upload it as a .csv or an Excel sheet. If you want to create the chart at the top of this Academy article, "Select a sample dataset" at the bottom of the page and choose the dataset "Global CO2 Emissions". It will look like this: 

Click "Proceed" at the bottom right to go to the next step: 


Check & Describe

In the second step, you can check if your dataset was imported correctly and make changes to it - if necessary. If you did not upload a header row, you have to untick "First row as label" to avoid losing your first row of data. Always remember to do this if you don't have descriptive row and column headers.

In step 2, your data looks like this. You can see that Datawrapper correctly recognized your numbers as numbers (and not as text or dates) because they are colored in blue and are right-alined. To learn more about the Datawrapper's automatic recognition of data formats, visit this article.

Click on "Proceed" at the bottom left to go to Step 3: Visualize:



In this step, you see a first chart. It's probably a line chart. We want to change that. To do so, click on the "Area chart" symbol in the grid of available chart types:

You will now see an area chart, without a title, descriptions or customized colors. Maybe you want to further refine, annotate & define this chart.  We cover these options for the area chart in a separate short tutorial found here.

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