How to Insert/Draw a Line in Excel (Straight Line, Arrows, Connectors)

Excel is not only a wonderful tool for data entry and data analysis, but also great at making charts, flow charts, simple diagrams, etc.

It’s quite simple in Excel to insert a line and then customize and position it. In fact, you’ll be surprised how many options you get when you need to draw a line in Excel.

You can easily draw a line to connect two boxes (to show the flow) or add a line in an Excel chart to highlight some specific data point or the trend.

Excel also allows you to use your cursor or touch screen option to manually draw a line or create other shapes.

How to Insert a Line in Excel (Using Illustation)

To insert a line in the worksheet in Excel, you need to use the Shapes option. It inserts a line as a shape object that you can drag and place anywhere in the worksheet.

You can also easily customize it- such as change the size, thickness, color, add effects such as shadow, etc.

Below are the steps to insert a line shape in Excel:

  1. Open the Excel workbook and activate the worksheet in which you want to draw/insert the line
  2. Click the Insert tab
Click the Insert tab
  1. Click on Illustrations
Click on Illustration icon
  1. Click on the Shapes icon
Click on Shapes option
  1. Choose from any of the existing 12 Line options
  2. Go to the worksheet, click the left key on your mouse/trackpad and drag the cursor to insert a line of that length
Line inserted in the worksheet

The above steps would instantly insert the line that you selected in step 5.

These are the 12 line options that you have available in Excel:

  1. Straight Line
  2. Line Arrow (with arrow at one end of the line)
  3. Line Arrow Double (arrow at both ends)
  4. Connector: Elbow (use this to connect boxes, this is not a straight line)
  5. Connector: Elbow arrow (arrow at one end)
  6. Connector: Elbow double-arrow (arrow at both ends)
  7. Connector: Curved
  8. Connector: Curved Arrow
  9. Connector: Curved Double-Arrow
  10. Curve
  11. Freeform: Shape
  12. Freeform: Scribble

Adding Multiple Lines in One Go

When you use the above steps, you can only insert any of the line shapes once. If you need to insert it again (say you want to insert 3 lines), you will have to repeat the process two times again.

Instead, you can lock the drawing mode so you can keep inserting the lines in one go.

Below are the steps to lock the line drawing mode:

  1. Open the Excel workbook and activate the worksheet in which you want to draw/insert the line
  2. Click the Insert tab
  3. Click on Illustrations
  4. Click on the Shapes icon
  5. Right-click on any of the line shapes that you want lock (i.e., the one that you want to insert multiple times)
  6. Click on Lock Drawing Mode
Select Lock drawing mode option
  1. Click anywhere in the worksheet

When you do the above steps, you will notice that your cursor changes and remains a plus icon. You can now click and drag and insert multiple lines in one go.

To unlock the line drawing mode, hit the Escape key.

Customizing Lines/Arrows in Excel

Apart from inserting different types of lines, you can also further customize the line shapes you insert.

When you click on any of the line shapes in the worksheet, you will see a new contextual tab appear in the ribbon – the Shape Format tab.

Shape Format tab in the Excel ribbon

In this new tab, you get some additional options to format the lines.

Shape Styles Options

In the Shape Styles group, there are some inbuilt theme styles and preset styles you can use. To see all these options, you can click on the More icon.

Click on More shape styling options icon

Then you can select any of the existing styles and it will be applied to all the selected lines in the worksheet.

More shape styling options

Apart from this, you can also change the line outline by clicking on the Shape Outline option.

Shape outline option

In Shape Outline, you can change the following:

  • Color of the line
  • Weight of the line (thickness)
  • Style of the line (solid, dot, dash, etc)
  • Arrows

And finally, you can also add some Effects to the line, such as shadow, glow, or reflection. This can be done using the Shape Effect options.

Shape Effect Option

To use these, select one or multiple lines to which you want to add the Effects and then use the options in Shape Effect.

Arranging the Lines

If you’re working with more than a few line shapes in Excel, you will find it useful to know about the ‘Arrange’ options.

You can find these in the Arrange group in the Shape Format tab (which only appears when you select any shape in the worksheet).

Shape Arrange options

Following are the options that are available to you:

  • Bring Forward / Send Backward – in case you want to rearrange the shapes
  • Selection Pane – this opens a pane on the right where you can see all the shapes in the worksheet. You also have the option to hide some shapes from this pane
  • Align – To align the lines left/center/right or top/middle/bottom. This comes in handy when working with multiple shapes where you want these shapes to be neatly aligned
  • Rotate – to change the angle to the line
  • Group – to group mutiple lines/shapes. For example, you can group lines and boxes using this so they will move/size together.

Note that most of the shape ‘Arrange options’ will become available only when you have more than one shape in the worksheet.

Example 1 – Adding a Line to Connect Boxes/Shapes

Now that I’ve covered the basics of how to insert and format line shapes in Excel, let me show you a couple of examples of how you can use this in real life.

A common example is when you have boxes in the worksheet and you want to connect these boxes using lines. These could be simple lines or lines with arrows that also show the flow

Below I have an example, where I have two boxes, and I want to draw lines between these to connect them.

Boxes to connect with a line

Below are the steps to do this:

  1. Click the Insert tab
  2. Click on Illustrations
  3. Click on Shapes
  4. Click on the Line icon
  5. In the worsheet, click on the right border of the first box and drag the cursor to the left border of the second box.

This will insert a line and you will get something as shown below.

Boxes connected with arrow

You can also use different styles of the lines, such as with arrows or connectors.

Example 2 – Adding a Line in Excel Charts

Apart from connecting boxes and making flowcharts, arrows are also useful when you want to highlight specific data points in a chart in Excel.

Below is an example where I wanted to highlight one specific data point with some context, so I added some text in the chart and then used an arrow to point that text towards one specific data point.

Line drawn to connect data label to box

You can format the line using the same colors used in the chart, or you can use a contrasting color to make it stand out.

How to Draw a Line in Excel (Using Cursor / Touch)

So far, I have covered how to insert a line shape in Excel that you can drag and drop anywhere in the worksheet and format the colors, thickness, etc.

But there is also an option to manually draw a line or shape in Excel.

The Draw option in Excel allows you to use your cursor (or a pen or touch if you have a touch screen) and draw on the screen.

You can use it to quickly draw some shapes and lines – such as a simple flow chart or an organization chart.

It won’t look as neat and clean as the shapes that you can insert, but in some cases, it could be faster and more useful – for example, if you are trying to show a process in excel on a call or in a presentation.

You can access these options in the Draw tab in the ribbon, where you can select the pen (with different colors and thickness) and use it for drawing lines or shapes.

Draw tab in the ribbon

You can change the pen color and size by clicking on the downward arrow that appears when you select any pen.

In case you don’t see the Draw option in the ribbon, right-click on any of the existing ribbon options and click on Customize the Ribbon. In the Excel Options dialog box that opens, check the Draw option (in the right pane) and click OK.

While using the Draw option is quite easy and self-explanatory, there is one useful feature that I want to highlight – Ink to Shape.

Using the Ink to Shape option, you can draw lines and shapes in the worksheet, and then use this option to convert these into neat-looking shapes (such as proper straight lines and boxes/squares/rectangles).

Below is an example of something I drew using my cursor.

Hand drawn shape

And now below are the steps to convert these hand draw boxes and lines into proper shapes:

  1. Click the Select Object option in the Draw tab
  2. Select the shapes you want to convert
  3. Click on the Ink to Shape option

Here is the result I got:

Hand drawn Shape converted to regular boxes

The above option will try its best to convert your free-form hand-drawn shapes into proper lines and boxes.

This feature is not perfect sometimes can’t understand the shapes. But it still works well and can save you a lot of time if you have a lot of these hand-drawn shapes that need to be converted.

In this tutorial, I covered how to draw a line in Excel using the insert shapes options and the draw options.

I hope you found this tutorial useful!

Other Excel tutorials you may also like:

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