What is a histogram?

A histogram is a set of rectangles (bars or columns) that shows a distribution of numerical variables over a scale divided into bins. Each rectangle represents the accumulated value (a range) of the given bin.
A histogram is a type of chart that resembles a bar or a column chart. But for the visual distinction between a histogram and a bar chart, it’s customary not to leave gaps (or to make them very small) between rectangles in a histogram to show the continuous nature of the variables used in the visualization. the columns have different heights because they correspond to the frequency of each group - meaning, how many items fall in a certain range.

Histograms are quite often chosen as the first option to review the data. They allow us to quickly see the form of distribution.

Variations of a histogram

The charts below are variations of a histogram. To learn how to make them with Datylon, check out the bar chart user documentation in the Datylon Help Center.

Stacked histogram

While the form of the histogram remains the same, the grouping is added, which allows one to see the contribution of each group.


Population pyramid

A population pyramid chart is a specific variation of a histogram that shows the distribution of the population divided into age range bins.


Chandelier chart

This type of histogram is hung on a normal distribution line. It allows us to see the difference between the actual and expected distribution values.

Alternatives to a histogram

Substitute your histogram with the charts below when you want an alternative representation of the data distribution.
Datylon chart library: use a column chart as an alternative for a histogram
Datylon chart library: use a column chart as an alternative for a histogram

Column chart

While a histogram is used to represent the distribution of continuous variables, column (and bar) charts usually represent differences between values of discrete categorical variables.

Datylon chart library: use a density plot as an alternative for a histogram
Datylon chart library: use a density plot as an alternative for a histogram

Density plot

Equally helpful to show the distribution, but unlike bars in histograms, density plots use the line. They somewhat resemble smooth peaks and valleys plotted between two axes.

Datylon chart library: use a one-dimensional heatmap as an alternative for a histogram
Datylon chart library: use a one-dimensional heatmap as an alternative for a histogram

One-dimensional heatmap

If histogram and density plots use a spatial representation of distribution, the one-dimensional heatmap applies color for the same purpose. Often used in climate communication.

Pro tips for designing a histogram

Learn how to improve the readability and visual appeal of your histogram.

Bin sizing

The size of the bin is the ultimate customizable option for a histogram, depending on the size of the bin the form of the histogram can be changed drastically. It’s better to follow your data’s logic, but there’s also a popular way for choosing a bin size called Sturge’s rule. It’s used in all major software, but it was criticized for over-smoothing histograms.

The formula is the following: K=1+3.322 log(n),

K is the number of bins
n is the number of observations in a dataset.



In most cases, the histogram is used to see the form of distribution and overall pattern, so there’s no need for detailed labeling of every bar. A regular axis label for both axes should work.

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Coloring of histograms follows the general rule of using color in data visualization – use color only if it communicates additional information. For any basic histogram, one color should be enough.

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To draw attention to the most important bin(s) of a histogram, a good solution is to highlight these bin bars and color all the others – in a neutral color. Our brain is programmed to notice deviations instantly. This can be done, for example, by applying changes in size, movement, or color. This way, highlighting a specific bin will help catch the reader’s eye immediately.

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Create your own histogram

Join Datylon for free and get started online or download our Datylon for Illustrator plug-in with a 14-day trial. Connect with a Datylon expert for a demo session.

Histogram examples & inspiration

Scroll and click on the images below to find inspiration samples of histograms. With your Datylon account, you can use these designs, customize them and update them with new data. Or start designing your very own histogram!

Discover more charts in our Chart Library

Learn more about the different types of charts and graphs you can design with Datylon. Discover other resource pages in our Datylon Chart Library.