Colors No Longer Work

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


Terry has been using Excel for many, many years. All of a sudden, the program will not allow Terry to change the text color or the fill color in his worksheets. This has not happened before, and he doesn't know how to correct it.

The first thing to check out is whether this a single-workbook issue or affects all workbooks. I would suggest taking the workbook to a different system and opening it there. If you can modify colors on that system, then you know it is a Windows-based issue on your system. If you cannot modify colors regardless of the system, then the issue is with the workbook itself.

Assuming it is a workbook-related issue, then there are a few things to check out. First, make sure that the cells exhibiting the issue aren't formatted with conditional formatting. (Conditional formatting always overrides explicit formatting in a cell.)

Another thing to check is whether there has been some protection applied to the workbook. It is possible to protect against changing cell formats, which would preclude making any color changes.

Next, check to see if there is some macro code running in the workbook that is causing your colors to not "hold," or to be overwritten in some way.

Finally, try removing all formatting from the worksheet. Do this by selecting all the cells, displaying the Home tab of the ribbon, clicking the Clear tool (in the Editing group), and clicking Clear Formats. You can then try adding your desired colors again.

If you determined that the problem was Windows-based, then it is possible that your Windows color settings are the issue. Check the color scheme (including in the Accessibility Options) to ensure that you aren't using some high-contrast colors that are causing the problem. This may also apply to Windows themes that use only grayscale or force colors to shades of gray.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6132) 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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