How to create a donut chart

A donut chart is useful when you want to show proportional parts of a whole and want to give the reader an extra data point in the middle. A donut chart should not have too many slices, as it would quickly become too cumbersome to read – if you want to show more than five parts, consider grouping them or use a bar chart instead.

Below is an example of a donut chart that makes good use of the part of the whole concept: We can see that more than half of German land is used for agriculture:


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.
  • One column containing at least two categories. This will determine the label in the donut slices. In our case, that's "Housing & traffic", "Other land" etc. 
  • One column containing numeric values. The values in the second column will define the size of the donut slices. 

The most important thing you have to keep in mind is that a donut chart always represents a whole, i.e. 100%. Therefore, you can only use data that is based on exclusive values. Making a donut chart of a survey that allows multiple answers will lead to a misleading chart. Use a bar chart instead, but never a donut chart. 

Below is the data we used to create the chart at the top of the page:

Kind of land square km
Housing & traffic 49254
Other land 11300
Agriculture 182637
Forest 106170
Water 8219

Source: Umweltbundesamt

Once you have your data in order, create a new chart in Datawrapper. If you're a first time user, head to the homepage and click on "Start creating". If you already have an account, click on the ''New Chart'' in the top row in your dashboard In Step 1: ''Upload'' you can copy & paste your dataset or upload it as a .csv, Excel or google Spreadsheet.  After pasting the data, the text field on the right will look something 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 will automatically be arranged in columns and rows. 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-aligned. 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:



Now comes the fun part. Under the tab ''Chart type'', you will see a range of chart types displayed. Odds are that your data will automatically be displayed as a line chart. To change that, click on the "Donut chart" symbol in the grid of available chart types:

You will now see a donut chart, without a title, descriptions or customized colors. The next step would be to further refine, annotate & define this chart.  We cover this in a separate short tutorial found here .