How to Create A Bubble Chart in Google Sheets

Last updated July 18, 2022

Bubble charts are a great way to compare data points visually. They provide users with the ability to compare three different numerical variables. Most other types of Google Sheets charts can’t do this.

Making a bubble chart in Google Sheets is pretty straightforward, but you must set up your data properly to make the most effective graph possible.

Follow along with this bubble chart Google Sheets guide to learn everything there is to know about this useful chart type.

What Is a Bubble Chart?

A bubble chart is a two-dimensional data presentation that shows several circles or bubbles. It is similar to a scatter plot but uses bubbles in place of the dots, the size of each of these bubbles shows the density of a data point by including a third numerical value.

Therefore, a bubble chart typically shows the values of three numerical variables, with the data for each observation represented by a bubble and the values of the other two variables displayed in the bubble’s horizontal and vertical positions.

A bubble chart requires a minimum of three variables, which can be columns or rows of data, two of which must reflect the points’ horizontal and vertical positions, and one must display the bubbles’ size.

Types of Bubble Charts

Now that we know what a bubble chart is let’s look at some of its types. These include:

  • Labeled – In labeled bubble charts, labels can be added to each individual bubble. Usually, only situations with a limited volume of data points make this possible.
  • Color-Coded Numeric Variables – In color-coded bubble charts, colors can be used to represent the variables. This allows you to distinguish each variable from the other easily. This is particularly useful where you have groups of data you want to distinguish easily.
  • Maps – Bubbles can be created on top of maps. These are commonly referred to as cartograms. The vertical and horizontal positions are the latitudes and longitudes. Making this conceptually identical to the earlier types. The main distinction is that the background uses an image.
  • Bubble Clouds – Another sort of bubble chart are bubble clouds, commonly referred to as circle packing or an overlapping bubble chart. In this case, the circles are positioned to fit tightly together.

Why Use a Bubble Chart in Google Sheets

A vital method to make decisions based on data is through is data visualization. It aids in analysis and comparison. A bubble chart lets you see extensive data sets with three or more dimensions. Many other chart types don’t allow for such easy comparisons between three values.

How to Make a Bubble Chart in Google Sheets

Here are the steps you need to follow to create a bubble chart in Google Sheets:

Step 1: Open Google Sheets on your browser. For this example, click on Blank under Start a new spreadsheet. This will open a new spreadsheet.

Step 2: We need to add the data to our spreadsheet. The data needs to be in a specific format for the bubble chart to work properly. Here is the format we will be following for creating the bubble chart in this example:

  • Column A – Label
  • Column B – Value for X-axis
  • Column C – Value for Y-axis
  • Column D – Color
  • Column E – Bubble size

Step 3: Click and drag the cursor to highlight all the cells in the dataset. This also includes the labels at the top. Click on Insert in the top bar and then click on Chart. This will insert a histogram into the spreadsheets.

Step 4: In the Chart Editor that shows up on the right side of the screen, click on the option under Chart type. There, click on Bubble chart under the Scatter category. The changes will be made to the chart instantly.

As you can see, not only does the chart allow you to quickly compare which teams have similar values for their points scored and wins, the size of the bubble also indicates their average personal fowls.

Now that you have the chart, let’s look at how you can customize it to your liking.

How to Customize a Bubble Chart in Sheets

To customize the bubble chart, head over to the Chart Editor. To do this, click on the chart and then the three dots icon on the top-right. There, click on Edit chart.

In the chart editor, click the Customize button to switch to the tab. Here you can customize the various attributes of the bubble chart. This includes the colors, sizes, and opacity.

When to Use a Bubble Chart

A bubble chart is mainly used to demonstrate correlations between numerical variables, much like a scatter plot. However, the inclusion of mark area as a variable allows us to compare three variables instead of simply two. We can execute three distinct comparisons (X and Y, Y and Z, and X and Z) and a three-way comparison in a single bubble chart.

To obtain the same detailed insight, numerous two-variable scatter plots would be necessary; even then, it would be more difficult to directly deduce a three-way link between data points than with a bubble chart.

A three-column data table is used to make a bubble chart. Each point’s vertical and horizontal positions will be represented by two columns and its size by a third column. Every column and row in the table will have one point plotted.

Advantages of Bubble Chart in Google Sheets

Generating a bubble chart on Google Sheets has various benefits. These include:

  • You don’t need to worry about keeping your charts on your computer because everything in Google Sheets is online.
  • With Google Sheets, remote collaboration is excellent. Your team can collaborate on the Bubble Chart layout if you share it with them.
  • You may add a text box, alter background colors, connect the text to the proper lines, and much more when making a bubble chart on Sheets.

Disadvantages of a Bubble Chart in Sheets

If you wish to discuss any new concepts, issues, or views with someone on your team, bubble charts are the ideal graphic organizer. However, there are several drawbacks to creating a bubble chart with Sheets. These include:

  • Sheets lacks the functionality necessary to build elaborate Bubble Charts compared to Excel.
  • You must rely on third-party extensions in Sheets to access better bubble chart features.
  • Since Sheets always runs online, activated by default, you will inevitably lose access to your work when there is minimal or no internet unless you activate the offline option. However, using this means that you won’t be able to update the spreadsheet automatically.

Tips for Creating a Data Visualization With a Bubble Chart

There are a few suggestions you should take into account if you intend to create bubble charts in Sheets to steer clear of costly errors down the road.

  • Always make sure to highlight the appropriate data in your spreadsheet.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to increase the productivity of your spreadsheets. You can find these keyboard shortcuts online.
  • Lock the cells to stop any unwanted changes to your spreadsheet.

Bubble Charts Best Practices

Here are some of the best practices when creating a bubble chart on Google Sheets:

Scale the Bubble Area With Value

Scaling the diameters or radii of the points to the values of the third variable is one simple error that you might make. When this type of scaling is used, a point that has double the value of the other point will have 4 times the size, making its value appear much larger than it actually is.

You may have to adjust your data to consider how data values are translated into point sizes based on how you make your bubble chart. Be cautious when the value is set to radius or diameter instead of the area because many visualization tools will do this automatically.

Limit the Number of Points

Since overlaps are significantly more likely when points are all of small sizes, bubble charts are frequently created with transparency on the points. Due to the overlap, the maximum amount of data points that may be plotted while maintaining readability is also limited. You can see this a little with our example, if there were even more data points overlapping, it would be very hard to read.

It’s important to remember when making a bubble chart, even if there are no strict rules on what datasets suit them. It can be worthwhile considering a technique to summarise the data or using a new chart type to show your data if there seems to be excessive overplotting.

Incorporate Negative Values

Since a shape cannot have a negative area, a variable that accepts negative values cannot be simply given to the size of the point as an encoding. You must encode more info into the shape size to signify negative values.

For instance, you might have positive values represented by filled circles, while negative values are represented by unfilled circles. You might also use positive points in one hue and negative ones in a contrasting, separate color.

Show a Clear Trend

If you’re considering utilizing a bubble chart to communicate information to others, be sure that it can clearly show a pattern by using point size as a measure of importance. Play around with the sequence in which the variables are plotted while creating your chart. The horizontal and vertical axes should contain the two most crucial variables or the most important relationship.

Add a Legend

Including a legend in your plot can help viewers understand how the various Google Sheets bubble chart disc size relates to the value of the third variable. The tick marks on the axes make it relatively simple to evaluate and compare numbers depending on vertical or horizontal lengths and positions.

Bubble Chart Google Sheets FAQ

How Do I Make a Bubble Chart in Google Sheets?

Select the data you want to insert into the bubble chart. Click on Insert in the top bar and then click on Chart. In the Chart Editor that shows up on the right side of the screen, click on the option under Chart type. There, click on Bubble chart under the Scatter category. The changes will be made to the chart instantly.

How Do You Make a Bubble Chart With 3 Variables?

To be able to create a proper bubble chart, the data in your spreadsheet should follow this format:

  • Column A – Label
  • Column B – Value for X-axis
  • Column C – Value for Y-axis
  • Column D – Color
  • Column E – Size

Select the data and then click on Insert and then on Chart. There, click on Bubble chart in the Chart editor.

Wrapping Up the Google Sheets Bubble Chart Guide

Charting is one of the best uses of spreadsheet programs, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with as many as possible. If you follow the above bubble chart Google Sheets guide and ensure all your data points are organized correctly, you’ll be able to make bubble charts with no worries.

Here are some related guides you may find useful for furthering your charting knowledge in Google Sheets:

Jake Wright

Jake Wright

Jake is a spreadsheet expert and content writer from New Zealand. He has a double Bachelor's Degree in Teaching and has been working in the education industry for over 11 years. His experience makes him adept at breaking down complex topics so that everyone is able to understand.