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Changing Excel's Background Color

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Changing Excel's Background Color.

The standard background color in Excel is white. You may, at some time, want to change the background color to something else, such as a light grey. Unfortunately, there is no way to change the background color; it is not a configurable option in Excel. There are a few things you can try as workarounds, however.

One approach involves selecting all the cells in the worksheet and applying a fill color to the cells. If you don't want the color to print, then you simply need to select all the cells and remove the fill color. This could be automated by using a macro to do the color removal, printing, and re-application.

There are drawbacks to such an approach, however. First, the colors used to fill the cells could interfere with the successful application of conditional formatting, if the conditional formatting involves the use of fill colors. (Conditional formatting applied to font specifications shouldn't be a problem.)

Another option is to create, in your favorite graphics program, a small rectangle that matches the color you want used for your background. Save the small rectangle as a graphics file, using the JPG file format. Then, within Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Page Layout tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Background tool, in the Page Setup group. Excel displays the Sheet Background dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Sheet Background dialog box.

  4. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the graphic image you created (the small rectangle of color).
  5. Click on OK.

The graphic image is placed in the background and repeated over and over again so that it fills the entire background. The benefit to this approach is that it doesn't affect any conditional formatting and the background image won't print.

Speaking of conditional formatting, if you aren't using conditional formatting for any purpose in a worksheet, you could use it to create your background. In a blank area of your workbook, define a cell that contains the value True. Then select your worksheet that you want to have the background color, and use a conditional format to define that color. The format can look at the cell you defined, and if it is True, then the color is applied. If the cell is not True, then the color is not applied. This allows you to turn the background color on or off (for printing) by changing the value of a single cell.

You could also define styles for use in your worksheet. Define a style that has the desired background color, and another that does not. You can then apply the colored style when editing and the non-colored style when preparing to print.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6121) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Changing Excel's Background Color.

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Comments for this tip:

Mike    24 Apr 2013, 13:11
Just set up a new windows 8 laptop & Office 2013 & cannot fill any of the cells with color! Choose a cell>right click>format cells>patterns, choose a color & NOTHING.
Am I missing something here, or is this a new 'feature' of excel 2013?
Don    05 Apr 2013, 13:45
Thank you Allen, this was very helpful!
Manjit    03 Feb 2013, 15:36
The standard background color in Excel is Transparent...
gaultz    22 Jan 2013, 17:39
Thanks heaps, this was very helpful.

I usually change app backgounds to anything other than white (grey, black, blue) to keep me from getting blind.

Cant believe Excel does not have this feature.
awyatt    13 Dec 2012, 12:05
I hope you don't share it with others--it might scare them away! ;-)

-Allen
marco    13 Dec 2012, 12:00
I use Allen Wyatt's picture as a background for all of my spreadsheets :)

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