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There are many types of graphs and charts available to help you visualize your data. However, each type is usually best suited to specific data types and purposes. When it comes to illustrating the changes to a variable over time, the line graph or line chart is probably your best bet. The horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents the appropriate units for the other variables. The data points, or markers, are joined by lines to make the evolution of the variables clearer. Additionally, it’s possible to use multiple data series to compare their evolution over time. 

In this guide, you will learn what a line graph is and the types available in Google Sheets. First, you will learn how to make a line graph with a single line, then one with multiple lines. Finally, you will learn about the three different types of line charts available in Google Sheets, the differences between them, and how you can use each one.

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What is a Line Graph in Google Sheets?

Google Sheets offers various types of charts to visualize your data. One of these is the line graph, which is ideal for illustrating changes to one or more variables over time. Usually, the X-axis shows the time units, while the Y-axis shows the units of the other variables.

If you want to visualize a single variable to see how it changes over time, you can use a line graph with a single line. However, you can easily show multiple lines on the same line graph, provided they are in the same units. In the next section, you will learn how to make a line graph with a single line and with multiple lines. After that, you will learn about all three types of line graphs in Google Sheets and how to use them.

How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets?

In this section, you have step-by-step instructions on creating a line graph with a single line and multiple lines.

How to Make a Single-Line Graph in Google Sheets?

Let's start by creating a single line graph in Google Sheets, showing changes to Apple’s closing price in January.

  1. 1. Open Google Sheets to the file with your data.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Open Google Sheets
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Open Google Sheets
  1. 2. Select the data you want to include in the line graph. In this case, it’s the date and stock price data.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Select Data
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Select Data
  1. 3. Go to Insert > Chart.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Insert Chart
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Insert Chart
  1. 4. Google Sheets usually recognizes the type of data and selects the appropriate chart type. However, if it doesn’t, go to the ‘Chart editor’ sidebar and select the ‘Line chart’ under ‘Chart type’.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Line Chart
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Line Chart
  1. 5. You can edit and customize the chart by right-clicking on the chart or from the ‘Customize’ tab in the ‘Chart editor’.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Customize Chart
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Customize Chart

How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets with Multiple Lines?

Now that you know how to make a single-line graph, let’s see how to create one with multiple lines. Let’s add two more lines to the line graph created in the previous section: the closing prices for Microsoft and Cisco.

  1. 1. Open the spreadsheet with your data in Google Sheets.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Open Google Sheets 2
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Open Google Sheets
  1. 2. Select the data you want to include. In this case, the date and the three stock prices.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Select Data 2
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Select Data
  1. 3. Go to Insert > Chart.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Insert Chart 2
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Insert Chart
  1. 4. If Google Sheets doesn’t do it automatically, select ‘Line chart’ under ‘Chart type’ from the sidebar.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Line Chart 2
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Line Chart
  1. 5. As you can see, this graph has three lines: one for each stock price. You can add or remove series or lines from the ‘Setup’ tab in the ‘Chart editor’.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Add Series
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Add Series
  1. 6. To customize or edit the chart, use the ‘Customize’ tab in the ‘Chart editor’ or right-click on the chart to see a menu.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Customize
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Customize
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Different Types of Line Graphs in Google Sheets & How to Use Them

As mentioned, Google Sheets lists three types of line graphs: line chart, smooth line chart, and combo chart.

How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Line Chart Types
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Line Chart Types

Let’s see how the line chart and the smooth line chart differ by creating each type for the same set of variables, which include year, revenue, and net income. Finally, you will see how to use the combo charts to represent change over time using bars for one variable and a line for the other.

Line Chart

Follow the steps below to create a line chart showing changes to revenue and net income over time.

  1. 1. Open Google Sheets to the file containing your data.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Open Google Sheets 3
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Open Google Sheets
  1. 2. Select the data you want to include and go to Insert > Chart.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Insert Chart 3
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Insert Chart
  1. 3. Make sure that the chart type is ‘Line chart’.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Line Chart 3
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Line Chart
  1. 4. As you can see below, each data point is represented by a marker, and these are joined by straight lines.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Markers
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Markers

Smooth Line Chart

Follow the steps below to create a smooth line chart showing the same data as the previous example: revenue and net income over time.

  1. 1. Using the chart from the previous example, go to the ‘Setup’ tab in the ‘Chart editor’.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Setup Tab
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Setup Tab
  1. 2. Under ‘Chart type’, change the selection to ‘Smooth line chart’.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Chart Type
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Chart Type
  1. 3. As you can see, the lines joining the data markers are now smooth, which means the chart shows a slightly distorted view of reality. You should be especially careful using this type of chart with small datasets, as the distortion will be greater.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Smooth Line Chart
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Smooth Line Chart
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Combo Chart

Finally, let’s see how you can use the combo chart to represent each variable using a different method: one variable is represented by bars, while the other is represented by markers joined by a line. Follow the instructions below to make a combo chart showing revenue and net income over time.

  1. 1. Open the spreadsheet with your data in Google Sheets.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Open Google Sheets 4
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Open Google Sheets
  1. 2. Select the data you want to include and go to Insert > Chart.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Insert Chart 4
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Insert Chart
  1. 3. Select the ‘Combo chart’ from the ‘Chart editor’. Revenue is represented by the blue bars and net income by the red line.
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets Combo Chart
How to Make a Line Graph in Google Sheets - Combo Chart

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Conclusion

As you have seen, line graphs are a great way to visualize changes to variables over time. You can create graphs showing one or multiple variables to see the evolution of each and easily compare them. While using a smooth line chart may look a little prettier, you should be careful not to use it with very small datasets, as manipulating the data in this way can lead to a distorted view.

You now know what line graphs are and how to use them in Google Sheets. You have step-by-step instructions on how to create a line graph using a single line or variable, as well as how to make one using multiple lines to represent different variables. Additionally, you know the difference between the three types of line charts featured on Google Sheets: line chart, smooth line chart, and combo line chart. Finally, you’ve seen examples of line charts showing changes to stock closing prices, as well as revenue and net income over time.

To learn more about tables and charts in Google Sheets, check out these guides:

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Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Jan 25 2023, Updated Jan 23 2023