How to Move Graphic Objects to Different Layers in Excel 2013

All graphic objects that you add to an Excel 2013 worksheet lay on different invisible layers that reside on top of the worksheet and over the worksheet data in the cells below. This means that if you move a graphic object over a cell that contains an entry, the graphic hides the data beneath it.

Likewise, if you draw a shape or add an image and then position it on top of another graphic object (such as an embedded chart or other shape or picture), it also covers up the graphic below.

In this figure, you see a triangle shape partially covering a star drawn on top of a right-arrow shape, all on top of a clustered column chart created from a nearby table of worksheet data. The three graphic shapes, the triangle, star, and arrow, are identified in the Selection task pane displayed on the right side of the program window as Isosceles Triangle 4, 5-Point Star 3, and Right Arrow 2, respectively.

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You display the Selection task pane by clicking the Selection Pane command button on the Format tab on the Chart Tools, Drawing Tools, or Picture Tools contextual tab, depending on the type of graphic object selected. When a SmartArt graphic object is selected, you need to click the Arrange command button before you can click the Selection Pane button on the Format tab of the SmartArt Tools contextual tab.

Excel makes it easy to move the graphic objects on the same worksheet to other layers using the Selection task pane.

Simply click the name of the object in this task pane that you want to move and then click the Bring Forward button (the one with the arrow pointing upward at the top of the task pane to the immediate right of the Hide All button) or the Send Backward button (the one with the arrow pointing downward right next to it) to move the object.

Clicking the Bring Forward button moves the selected object up a level in the Selection task pane just as clicking the Send Backward button moves the object down a level.

Note that any graphic object that appears above others in the list in the Selection task pane obscures all the objects below it, provided that the objects’ check boxes in the task pane are not empty but contain eye icons (meaning that they’re visible in the worksheet) and that the objects overlap each other in whole or part in their placement on the worksheet.

If the Selection task pane is not open, you can use the Bring to Front and Send to Back command buttons on the Format tab on the Chart Tools, Drawing Tools, or Picture Tools contextual tabs to move them to new layers:

  • Choose the Bring to Front option from the Bring Forward drop-down menu to bring the selected graphic object to the top of the stack.

  • Choose the Send to Back option from the Send Backward drop-down menu to send the object to the bottom of the stack.

  • Click the Bring Forward button to bring the selected object up to the next higher layer.

  • Click the Send Backward button to send the selected object down to the next layer.

The following figure illustrates how easy it is to move a graphic object to a different level in the Selection task pane. For this figure, Isosceles Triangle 4 was chosen from the list and then the Send Backward button was clicked three times.

Then 5-Point Star 3 was clicked in the list and the Send Backward button was clicked twice. Finally, the Right Arrow 2 was clicked in the list and Send Backward was clicked just once to move under the Chart 1 layer now at the top of the list, just as they appear in the figure.

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