Custom Colour Tips For Excel

Do you use many colours in Excel?

I keep most of my Excel workbooks relatively colour free, except for a few headings or charts, or to mark cells for data entry. Usually, I use Excel's standard colours, but sometimes I need something a little different. For example, if I'm building a workbook for a client, I might want to match their corporate colours.

Modify a Colour in Excel 2003

The colour options are hard to find in Excel 2003. To use a new custom colour to your workbook, you'll have to modify one of the existing colours.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
  2. On the Color tab, click on one of the standard colours that you don't plan to use in this workbook
  3. Click Modify, to open the Colors dialog box


Select a Colour in Excel 2007

In Excel 2007, you can use a Ribbon command to open the Color dialog box.

  1. On the Ribbon's Home tab, click the arrow at the right of the Fill Color or Font Color button
  2. Click More Colors...

The Color Dialog Box

In both versions of Excel, the Colors dialog box looks the same.


Click on a colour in the Standard tab, or click the Custom tab for more choices.

Tip: To make it easier to see the colours, double-click the Colors title bar, and the dialog box will expand to fill the screen.


Select a Custom Colour

If my client provided colour information, I can enter the Red, Green and Blue numbers on the Custom tab, for an exact match. When I don't need an exact match, I can move through the custom colour screen until I find something that looks appropriate for the workbook.

To move through the Custom Colors palette:

  • Click on a colour with the mouse pointer
  • Or, use the arrow keys to move up, down, left or right


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9 Responses

  1. Jon Peltier says:

    “Tip: To make it easier to see the colours, double-click the Colors title bar, and the dialog box will expand to fill the screen.”

    Well, that’s awesome. I’ve never seen it documented anywhere. Did you discover it by accident?

  2. Debra,

    I’ve read somewhere that if you apply a custom color to a cell in 2007, that color becomes a property of the cell which is UNRELATED to the custom color, so if you change the custom color, your cell stays unchanged.

    What I am trying to say is that if you want to use client colors, you’re better off changing (one of) the 8 theme colors.

    Not entirely sure I’m right though.

  3. Filling the screen with that color picker is also new to me. I didn’t realize you can also drag the edges. Looks pretty cool spread across two monitors.

  4. Jon, yes I discovered that tip by accident, a few years ago, and now use it almost every time I’m in that dialog box. Now I’ll have to try John’s idea of spreading it across two monitors — even more fun.
    Thanks Jan Karel, your explanation makes sense, based on the way that colours have changed in Excel 2007.

  5. teylyn says:

    Hi, thanks for this tip for extending the color selection window. Double clicking on the title bar does not work for me in 2003, but I had never noticed the resize handle at the lower right of the window. Great!

  6. Teylyn, funny that the double-click won’t work for you, but using the resize handle is almost as fast.

  7. AlexJ says:

    In a similar vein, I’ve noticed that certain dialog boxes like Line Color, Fill Color, and Font Color have selection bars across the top of them.

    You can’t resize them, but you CAN use the selection bar to drag the dialog box into your screen and keep it open – so multiple coloring activities can be achieved without closing the dialog.

  8. Alex, those tear off palettes are very handy. Too bad they aren’t available in Office 2007.

  9. _ says:

    If you need to match your client’s colors exactly and do not have the specific color codes, you can obtain them from their website. Simply go to your client’s website and find their logo, then use a browser plugin (I use ColorZilla for Chrome) to select the area where the color is located. Repeat until you have their complete color scheme. I use this trick all the time and my clients love it.

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