Customizing your Multiple Lines chart
After uploading your data, you'll find lots of options in Datawrapper to make your Multiple lines chart (or, as they’re sometimes called, small multiple line chart, trellis plot, facets, grid chart, or panel chart) easier to understand, better at communicating a statement, and more beautiful to look at.
This guide will show you how to first customize and then publish the following chart, and explain all settings you'll encounter on the way:
Under step 3: Visualize, you'll notice three tabs besides Chart type: Refine, Annotate, and Layout. Let's start by clicking on Refine.
Here you see a lot of options to change the visual appearance of your small multiple line chart.
Panels are the "mini line charts" of your small multiple line chart. Each panel shows (at least) one line and a panel title. In the first section, Panel Layout, you can decide how big each panel should be and in which order they should appear:
Panels per row: Here you can control the number of columns of your chart for both desktop and mobile readers.
You have two options:
- Fixed is the default. It lets you choose the exact number of panels for mobile and for desktop readers.
For example: You can decide that your reader should see five panels when the chart is wider than 500px ("desktop"), and three panels if the chart is narrower. Then:
- When your chart is 300 px wide, it shows 3 columns
- When your chart is 500 px wide, it shows 5 columns
- When your chart is 900px wide, it shows also 5 columns, etc.
- Auto lets you choose one minimum size for all panels.
- For example: If you set the panel size to 200px, then
- When your chart is 300px wide, it shows 1 column
- When your chart is 500px wide, it shows 2 columns
- When your chart is 900px wide, it shows 4 columns, etc.
You can change the width of your chart by changing the Preview size below the chart, or by dragging the arrow in the lower right of the chart to the left and right. We recommend to set the chart width to the size your final chart will appear in for most readers (e.g. your article width).
Panel height sets the height of each panel/row of panels. You have two options again:
- Fixed: The height of the panel is always the same. For example, if you choose a fixed panel height of 140px, your panels will always be exactly 140px tall, no matter if they are 200px or 300px wide.
- Based on width: The height of your panels is based on their width. The wider the panel, the taller your panel. For example, if you choose 100%, then the panel will always be almost square-like. If you choose 200%, the panel will always be double as tall as wide.
Sort panels lets you decide in which order your panels should be. You have the following options:
- Start sorts by the first value in each panel.
- End sorts by last value.
- Difference sorts by absolute difference between first and last values.
- % change sorts by relative difference between first and last values.
- Range sorts by absolute difference between highest and lowest values (min and max value).
- Title sorts by panel title alphabetically.
You can decide to reverse the order of the sort, to e.g. sort the panels by highest to lowest end value.
This section lets you change your x-axis, including labels and grid lines:
- Select column: By default, your first column is selected – which, in most cases, will be your date/time column. If that's not the case, you can choose another one.
- Custom range: By default, the horizontal axis spans from the earliest to the latest date – but you can decide to cut off data points or extend your axis here. For example, you can decide to only show data points between 2005 and 2010, even if the data goes from 2000 to 2023.
- Custom ticks: By default, the earliest and latest date/time is labeled. If you want to label more than these two dates, you can add dates here: e.g. "2000, 2010, 2020". Note that Datawrapper makes sure that labels don't overlap, so not all labels will show up if space doesn't permit.
- Tick format: Here you can choose how your labels should appear: Should they include months? Only show days? Learn which date formats are available for your data in this Academy article.
- Grid lines: By default, no grid lines are shown. You can decide to show them, or to only show ticks above the grid labels.
- Display grid labels in all panels: By default, the grid labels (e.g. your years) are only shown in panels of the first column. You can decide to show them in all panels by turning this setting on.
This section lets you change your y-axis, including labels and grid lines.
Use independent scales for each panel: By default, this is turned off – so Datawrapper checks for the lowest and highest data point in all your data to determine the range for your vertical axis for all panels based on that. For data that's vastly different in magnitude (e.g. category A has data between 0 and 10 and category B has data between 0 an 1000), you can decide that Datawrapper should have a different range for each panel.
If you do so, the following happens:
- You can't show the data on a logarithmic scale anymore.
- You can't set custom ranges or custom ticks anymore. Grid labels will always be shown when you use independent scales, so that your readers can understand that the vertical axes are not the same for each panel.
- You get a new option: Range rounding. If range round is turned on, all gridlines sit on the same height, but the label values are not rounded as much as possible (e.g. "5.1K" instead of "5K"). If range rounding is turned off, the label values are rounded, but the gridlines are on different heights:
Let's continue with the settings that are possible when "Use independent scales for each panel" is turned off:
- Scale type: linear/logarithmic: By default, your vertical axis is scales in a linear way – but if you have outliers in your value, a logarithmic scale can make sense. Note that this isn't possible when any of your values is zero. Learn more about log scales on our blog.Custom range: By default, the vertical axis spans from the lowest to the highest value – although Datawrapper might extend the chart to the zero baseline if it's close. Using the custom range option, you can extend or cut off the y axis at the top or bottom. For example, you can type in a 50000 as the min value and 800000 (or 8e5) to only cut the values below 50,000, and to extend the vertical axis to 800,000.
- Custom ticks: By default, Datawrapper tries to find a good-looking number of gridlines it then labels. You can change that by adding your own values, separated by a comma. Note that only values will be shown that a) don't overlap and b) are within the custom range.
- Number format: Choose how your number should appear (e.g. 200,000 or 200K or 200,000.0%). Learn about the available options in this Academy post.
- Grid labels: You can decide to display your grid labels outside (= to the left, in left-to-right charts) of the panels – or inside. The later option uses less space, but can overlap your lines.
- Grid lines: You can choose between showing the grid lines for the whole width of each panel, to not show them at all, or to only show short tick marks. Note that Datawrapper automatically labels the grid labels in all panels when you choose to not show grid lines or to show tick.
- Display grid labels in all panels: By default, the grid labels are only shown in panels of the first column. You can decide to show them in all panels by turning this setting on. Note that this makes your panel line narrower:
This section lets you change the style of your lines (color, dash, width), and where they show up:
- Base color changes the color of all lines. That only works as long as you didn't customize lines in the list below.
- Interpolation lets you control how the lines are connected between the data points. To read more about when to choose which interpolation, visit or blog post.
- Use line color for panel titles does exactly that: The line color (or a slightly darker option if the light color is too light) gets used for the title above the panel.
Below these settings, you see a list of all panels – meaning, every column that you can see in step 2: Check & Describe that isn't hidden will show up here. As you can see in the GIF above, you can customize all, many, or individual lines by selecting them in the panel list. Let's see what's possible for each line:
- Panel title lets you change the name of you panel.
- Show on lets you choose if your panels should appear on both wider screens ("desktop", >500px), narrow screens ("mobile"), only of them, or neither. Depending on what you'll choose, you'll see a symbol in the panel list itself. You can also click on the eye in the panel list to hide certain panels.
- Color, width, and dash let you choose the color, width, and dash of all selected lines.
Below these settings, you'll find something special: The option to repeat line in all panels. If you turn this on, your selected line(s) will appear in all panels, and you can style that repeated line. You'll also see an indicator in the panel list:
You can hide a panel in the panel list, but then decide to repeat the panel line in all panels. For example, in our house pricing chart, we want to let readers compare the prices of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the English regions to the value for the whole of the United Kingdom. So we hide the U.K. line, but repeat it in all panels. We also decide to show the color in the color legend, so that our reader understand what that orange line is supposed to show:
At the end of the settings for each line, you'll find the options to copy and paste settings. Click "copy settings," then select at least one other line in the panel list and click on "paste settings" to give your newly selected lines the same style. As you can see in the following GIF, this also copies your settings for repeated lines:You can customize lines further, even after pasting a setting.
If you're not happy with the result, you can always click on Reset to default.
You can decide to fill the area between the panel line and the zero baseline. Once you decided to repeat any lines (see above), you can also fill the area between that repeated line and the panel line. Once you decided on a fill, you can also give that area fill a color and change its opacity with the slider:
By default, tooltips are turned on and synced in all panels. That means that if you hover over the line in one panel, tooltips will also appear in every other panel for the same date/time. You can turn that off by deselecting "Sync tooltips in all panels". You can also decide to give your tooltip a different date format and number format:
After working through all these options in the Refine tab, let's move on to the next tab: Annotate.
In the Annotate tab, you have the option to add text and highlight ranges/lines to your small multiple line chart:
Title, description, notes, etc.
You can learn more about adding a title, description, notes, etc. to your chart in our Academy article Annotating your visualization in the "Annotate" tab.
Text annotations are great to give context to your chart or point out certain data points. You'll find that adding annotations works just like in any other Datawrapper chart – here's our Academy article on creating text annotations – with three exceptions:
- You can decide with a drop down which panel your annotation should be in. (That's great for duplicating annotations!)
- You can drag an annotation from one panel to the next.
- You can decide to repeat an annotation in all panels.
If you want to point out a date or value range/line, click on Add range highlight. You can then drag a range directly in one of your panels, move it around, or change the position in the settings to the highlight:
As you can see, here too you can select the panel in which you want the range highlight to show up, or repeat it in all panels. You can also change the color and opacity of your highlight range.
For our chart, we decide to repeat the highlight range in all panels:
Tab: Layout & Publish
After adding text to our chart, only one tab is left in step 3: Visualize: The Layout tab. You can find all Layout settings explained in this Academy article. And once you're happy with your settings, it's time to publish! We prepared another detailed Academy article about publishing, embedding, and exporting your chart here.
And that's it! You successfully customized your first small multiple line chart. This is how it looks like in the end: