Add color to your Excel workbooks

By Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D.

Q. I would like to add some color to my Excel workbooks. What are some ways of doing that?

A. There are several ways to add color to your Excel workbooks. Some reasons you may want to do this are to represent your organization's colors, to distinguish items in your workbook, or just to give your spreadsheet some personality.

The two most basic ways to add color to your Excel spreadsheet are to use Fill Color and Font Color. These are located on the Home tab in the Font group. You can use Fill Color to change the background color of specific cells and use Font Color to change the color of the content within specific cells.

Another way to add color to your Excel workbook is to color-code your worksheet tabs. This helps differentiate the tabs at the bottom of your workbook, which is particularly useful when the workbook contains many tabs. To color-code a tab, right-click on the tab and choose Tab Color, then choose your preferred color. While the tab is selected, the color will have a light gradient color. When the tab is no longer active, the color will turn solid. (See the screenshot below of a workbook with colored tabs.)


You can also add some color to your Excel workbook by changing the color of the gridlines from the default gray. To do this, go to File, Options, Advanced. Under the heading Display options for this worksheet, click the drop-down arrow next to Gridline color and select the color you want.

You can change the standard white background of your Excel spreadsheet to a more colorful background, perhaps one that represents your organization or one that makes your spreadsheet more appealing. To do this, go to the Page Layout tab and choose Background from the Page Setup group. The Insert Pictures window will open. If you already have an image you would like to use as the background, choose From a file or OneDrive — Personal to navigate to the picture. You can also choose Bing Image Search to choose an image available online. Once you have chosen your image, click Insert.

I have created a workbook with examples of adding color to an Excel workbook and an accompanying video.

About the author

Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D., MBA, is an associate professor of accounting at the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University.

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