Statistics How To

Area Chart: Simple Definition, Examples

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An area chart showing a comparison of cats and dogs in a certain rescue over a period of 10 years.

An area chart is an extension of a line graph, where the area under the line is filled in. The “lines” are actually a series of points, connected by line segments. As well as looking slightly different from the run-of-the-mill line graph, area charts have different connotations; While a line graph measures change between points, an area chart emphasizes the data’s volume (Milne, 2003).

Types of Area Chart

area chart comparison

Comparison of the three different types of area charts.

  • Cumulative (regular) area chart: Similar to multiple line graphs, the charts share a common baseline (usually the x-axis). This type of chart isn’t suitable if any of the data bleeds into another area. If this is the case, use the stacked type instead.
  • Stacked Area Chart: This type doesn’t have a common baseline. Instead, each area is “stacked” on top of each preceding area.
  • 100% Stacked area chart: Each area is also “stacked” on top of each preceding area, but each area is a percentage of measurements at a particular data point.
  • Stacked area charts aren’t recommended for very jagged areas; Use a bar chart or column chart instead.


Milne, P. Presentation Graphics for Engineering, Science and Business. Taylor & Francis. 2003.
Peh, D. et al. BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting. Pearson Education, 2008.

Stephanie Glen. "Area Chart: Simple Definition, Examples" From Elementary Statistics for the rest of us!

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