How to label axis in Excel – our guide to adding titles in charts

Learn how to label the axis in Excel with this easy-to-follow tutorial.

Logo of Microsoft Excel with a green color scheme on a gradient background and instructions to label axis in Excel.

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Want to know how to label axis in Excel? We’ve got you covered.

If you frequently use charts, you’ll know what an axis label is. However, knowing how to implement one in Excel is a different story. Like most things in Excel, once you know how to do it, it’s super easy and can give the user more information about the chart in question.

Axis labels aren’t displayed by default, so you’ll need to add them manually, and of course, you have both horizontal and vertical axes that you can label. This guide will explain how you can label axis in Excel.

How to add axis labels to a graph in Excel

Scenario on hand: We have an Excel graph of supermarket sales.  

What we want to accomplish: Explore how to add axis labels to a graph in Excel using the following ways:

  1. Enable the axis titles 
  2. Enable the axis titles from ‘Chart Design’
  3. Enable only horizontal or vertical axis titles
  4. Automating the axis title
  5. Format axis titles
  6. Removing axis titles

Enable the axis titles

The first method is for you if you want to enable and label both horizontal and vertical axes titles. 

Step 1: Enable the axis titles

By default, your Excel chart might not have any axis labels. So, the first step is enabling the axis titles. 

To do this, click your Excel graph. This will show three options on the top right of the chart. Click the ‘+’ icon:

A screenshot of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet displaying a bar chart titled 'sales' with data points for eight different stores and a label axis in Excel with formatting options highlighted.

This option opens up a menu where the axes, chart titles, and gridlines will be enabled as default. Tick mark on the axis titles to enable it:

How to label axis in Excel

Step 2: Label the axis titles

Once you have the axis titles enabled, you can rename them to your suited titles. Here’s how we labeled it according to our dataset:

Screenshot of a Microsoft Excel window displaying a dataset for creating a pie chart, highlighting the sales data column, with a bar chart already created to represent the sales figures across different supermarkets and labeled axes.

Enable the axis titles from ‘Chart Design’

Another way to enable the axis titles is from the ‘Chart Design’ tab. This is a tab that you will see on the top when you select your chart.

When you click this tab, you will see an option ‘Add Chart Element’ on the right. You can turn chart elements on and off using this option:

A screenshot of a Microsoft Excel program with an open spreadsheet showing a bar chart titled "sales", and data for various stores in columns A and B. The 'Chart Tools' design tab is active,

Enable only horizontal or vertical axis titles

If you’re using a dual-axis chart, vertical or horizontal axis options will be shown automatically, but some charts won’t always require both. You may just need a vertical axis label or a horizontal axis label.

To do this, go back to step 2, where the plus sign is. From here, you’ll be met with the ‘Chart Elements’ window again, but if you hover over ‘Axis Titles, ’ a black arrow will appear.

Click this, and you will see a checkbox for both vertical and horizontal axes. Simply untick the one you don’t need, and it will disappear.

A screenshot of a Microsoft Excel application displaying a dataset and a corresponding bar chart titled "chart 1 - sales". The dataset labeled "dataset for creating a pie chart in Excel" contains names of stores

Automating axis titles

If you’d like to automate the text of the axis labels, you can actually create a reference from the axis title to a cell, and it’s really quite simple.

Select the axis title and write the ‘=’ symbol in the formula bar, like you would if you were creating a regular formula in Excel. 

A screenshot of Microsoft Excel displaying a dataset labeled "dataset for creating a pie chart in Excel" along with a corresponding bar chart titled "sales," showing various sales values for different stores, and an arrow

Then, left-click on the cell containing the axis title you want, like you would if you were creating a regular reference, and then press enter.

A screenshot of Microsoft Excel displaying a dataset for creating a pie chart alongside a bar chart depicting sales figures by store, with label axis in Excel.

So now, when the text in the axis title cell changes, the axis label will change automatically, too. It’s easy to do and saves you the hassle of going back and forth and changing the title if the chart is a draft.

You can also use this method to automate the graph’s title and the axis labels. 

Format axis titles

If you want a bit of character to your axis title instead of the dull block text, why not format it? It’s simple to do, and it’ll give your chart a bit of extra character.

Right axis title and click ‘Format Axis Title’ to open formatting options.

A screenshot of Microsoft Excel showing a dataset for creating a pie chart with the context menu open on a bar chart, demonstrating an option to label axis selected by the mouse cursor.

From here, you can change the fill and border for the axis title:

A screenshot of Microsoft Excel showing a datasheet and a corresponding bar chart, with the 'label axis in Excel' options panel opened on the right side.

From ‘Text options’ you can change the color, text fill, and text outline:

A screenshot of a Microsoft Excel program window showing a dataset titled "dataset for creating a pie chart in Excel" alongside a bar chart depicting sales figures, with the chart design tab open and label axis options

You can even change the placement of the data labels from the menu options by clicking ‘Data Labels’:

A screenshot of a Microsoft Excel program displaying a bar chart titled "dataset for creating a pie chart in excel" with sales data for various supermarkets and a 'Label Axis In Excel' task pane on the

Removing the axis title

Removing the axis title is as simple as enabling them. You can remove the axis titles by just left-clicking on them and pressing the Delete button. 

A screenshot of Microsoft Excel displaying a dataset for creating a pie chart, with the 'sales' column highlighted and a right-click context menu open, showing options such as 'cut', 'copy', and

Alternatively, you can just uncheck the ‘Axis Title’ option in the ‘Chart Elements’ window, which will eliminate the axis titles for you.

A screenshot displaying an open Microsoft Excel application with a dataset titled "dataset for creating a pie chart in Excel" and a corresponding bar graph titled "sales" showing sales figures for various stores, with properly

Wrapping up

Excel is a great tool for creating data visuals because of its excellent and sophisticated chart features. We have shown you that adding and formatting your graph’s axis labels is straightforward in just a few simple steps. Hopefully, now you have all the necessary information to make awesome graphs and charts for your next project.

If you want to learn more about Excel, give these guides a read:

Kevin is the Editor of PC Guide. He has a broad interest and enthusiasm for consumer electronics, PCs and all things consumer tech - and more than 15 years experience in tech journalism.