Returning a Value Based on Text Color

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 26, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Jose knows he can sort by color in Excel, but wonders if he can use the color of the text within a cell in a formula. For instance, the color of the contents of cell A1 is determined by conditional formatting. In another cell, he'd like to return -1 if A1 is shown in white, 2 if it is black, and 3 if it is blue.

When dealing with conditional formatting, detecting colors applied by the formatting rules can be troublesome. (In other words, it cannot be done reliably across differing versions of Excel.) In this case, it would be much easier to simply recreate, in the formula, the conditional formatting rule and return the values desired. In other words, use the same formulas you used in the conditional formatting rule to determine the value to be returned. You can, if necessary, combine multiple rules into a single formula by wrapping them within an IF statement.

You could even go a step further, if desired. For instance, let's say that you develop a formula that you use in the cells of column B. The formula returns -1, 2, or 3, based on whatever criteria you want to use. Once that formula is in place, you could modify the conditional formatting rules used in column A so that it adjusts text color based upon the values in column B. That way, you aren't dealing with having two sets of formulas for the two columns.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (43) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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