Visualizing Your Data With Heat Maps

If you subscribe to these tips, you should already know that people can interpret visual information faster and more easily than text and numbers. Even if you’re dealing with a table of numbers there are ways to present them visually. Depending on your context, charts are often a great option. For those times when seeing all the data and actual numbers is important you might want to consider a heat map.

A heat map is a graphical representation of data where the individual values contained in a matrix are represented as colors.

Fortunately, Excel’s conditional formatting feature makes this super quick and easy. (We love that!)

Let’s take a look at how easy this is by starting with a typical table of Excel data:


To turn this into a heat map, select the range of data and go to the Conditional Formatting button on the Home Ribbon. From there, find the Color Scales option and select the type of coloring you want to use.

Conditional Formatting

Voila! You now have a nice visual representation of your data. In this example, green signifies the highest values, red the lowest, and yellow is in the middle.


Not bad for two-seconds of work is it? Of course, you can always customize these defaults and change the colors, value ranges, etc. Just go to the Manage Rules option under the Conditional Formatting button. From there you can experiment and find what works best for you and your data.


You can learn more about conditional formatting here. Or you can check out how to use other conditional formatting options such as data bars and icon sets to highlight data.

Have a great holiday weekend!


3 thoughts on “Visualizing Your Data With Heat Maps

  1. Kay B says:

    Thanks Mike, for this lesson on a heat map. It is a new one for me and I can think of a couple of ways right off for a perfect use. Kay B


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