How to Create a Surface Plot in Excel?

Surface Plots

There are times when a process is affected by more than one variable. In this case, the right thing to do would be to find the sweet spot for each of those independent variables so that the resultant output which is dependent on them can be maximized. To do this one ought to find the optimum combination of these variables.

Take all these requirements and ask Excel what to do, it shall show us the direction to the Surface Plot! It is the go-to data visualization tool to find the optimum combination of these variables by plotting them in a three-dimensional surface meshed within the axes.

Steps to Create A Surface Plot in Excel

The dependent variable is plotted along the vertical axis, whilst the independent variables are plotted along the horizontal axis. We shall further explore this tool to its greater depths in this article.

Test Results
Results for Sealing Tests

The above is a set of test results for Sealing Strength which is dependent on the below variables.

  • Sealing Temperature
  • Batch Type

So, the Sealing Strength is to be plotted along the vertical axis & the independent variables – Sealing Temperature and Batch Type will be plotted along the horizontal axis. Select these data as shown below and look out for the Surface Plot icon under the Charts section within the Insert tab.

Selecting Data Locating the Surface Plot Icon
Selecting Data & Locating the Surface Plot Icon

It is to be noted that the version of MS Office that has been installed on your PC shall determine whether the icon would contain multiple chart categories combined together as shown or given separately.

After clicking on the icon a drop-down list with a variety of chart types shall appear. We shall choose the 3D Surface Plot for this demonstration, but the process is the same if one wants to create a 3D Wireframe Surface Plot too.

Selecting the 3D Surface Plot Option
Selecting the 3D Surface Plot Option

Once done, now a chart shall appear since we have already selected the data upon which it is to be created.

3D Surface Plot Appears
3D Surface Plot Appears

Though the chart appears instantly, it, however, has some shortcomings before it could be put into use elsewhere. One of those is the Chart Title which is filled with a default text & the other is the front horizontal axis which has also been filled with default values.

Also, it is to be noted that there are no axis titles in any of these axes which makes it a tad bit difficult to interpret which axis stands for what. So, we shall also include axis titles for each of the axes in the above chart.

Updating Chart Title

Double-click within the chart title, delete the default text & replace it with that of our choice as shown below.

Axis Title Changed
Axis Title Changed

Updating Horizontal Axis Values

Right-click anywhere within the chart and choose the Select Data option to make the Select Data Source pop-up appear.

Choosing Select Data Option 1
Choosing Select Data Option

Once within the Select Data Source pop-up, select the Edit option under the Horizontal Axis Labels section to change the default values.

Selecting the Edit option
Selecting the Edit option

This leads us to the Axis Labels dialog box within which the data range containing the values to be displayed on the horizontal axis can be chosen.

Selecting the Horizontal Axis Values
Selecting the Horizontal Axis Values

After clicking OK, we shall be directed back to the Select Data Source pop-up. Click OK again & now the chart updated with the values along the horizontal axis appears.

Horizontal Axis Values Updated
Horizontal Axis Values Updated!

Including Axis Titles

Click on the ‘plus’ (+) sign at the top right corner of the chart as shown below & check the Axis Titles option to get the axis titles in place.

Selecting Axis Titles Option
Selecting Axis Titles Option
Axis Titles Appears
Axis Titles Appears!

Double-click on each of these axis titles to update them similar to what was done earlier with the Chart Title.

Axis Titles Updated
Axis Titles Updated!


Have a look at this article, in case you would like to know about creating 3D Area Charts in MS Excel. There are numerous equally interesting & informative articles in QuickExcel that serve to be a great asset to those who pursue their journey to excel in MS Excel. Adios.