Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Understanding Fill Effects.

Understanding Fill Effects

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 16, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Excel is not a specialized graphics program, by any stretch of the imagination—it is a spreadsheet program. However, you can insert drawing objects that may be beneficial to the information you are trying to convey in the worksheet. You can apply a few fancy effects to your drawing objects when you fill them with a color. To see the available effects, follow these steps:

  1. Select the drawing object you want to modify.
  2. Make sure the Format tab of the ribbon is displayed.
  3. In the Shape Styles group, click the Shape Fill tool. Excel displays a number of fill options.

It is the options at the bottom of those offered that represent the fill effects. You can select any of the following:

  • Picture. This tab allows you to pick a picture that is used to fill your drawing object. Depending on the picture you use, this can create some very interesting special effects.
  • Gradient. This tab is used to modify the density of the color used in various parts of the drawing object. You should experiment with these to get the desired effect.
  • Texture. This tab displays many different surface textures you can use to fill your drawing object. There are some great marble, fabric, and wood textures provided with Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7761) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Understanding Fill Effects.

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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