RGB Values for Automatic Colors

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 25, 2017)

5

Paul generates a lot of XY plots in Excel. Sometimes he wants to change the colors of the markers and lines of one series to match those of another series. He would like to match the "automatic" colors that Excel applies, but Paul hasn't found a way to get a list of the RGB values for the "automatic" colors. When he manually selects colors for a series a dialog box opens showing theme colors, standard colors, and recent colors. Oddly, none of these are the same as the automatic colors. Paul wonders if anyone knows how to identify the RGB values of Excel's automatic colors.

To discover a chart line's RGB value, as assigned by Excel, follow these steps if you are using Excel 2013:

  1. Right-click on the data series (the line) in the chart. Excel displays a Context menu.
  2. Choose Format Data Series. Excel displays the Format Data Series task pane at the right of the screen.
  3. In the task pane click the Fill & Line option. (This option looks like a spilling paint bucket.)
  4. Expand the Line options, if necessary.
  5. Click the Color tool. Excel displays a palette of colors you can use.
  6. Choose More Colors. Excel displays the Colors dialog box. The Custom tab should be displayed, by default, in the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  7. Figure 1. The Custom tab of the Colors dialog box.

The RGB values shown in the dialog box are the values for the currently selected data series. Jot them down and then you can close all the dialog boxes and the task pane.

The above steps (or their equivalent, adjusted for interface differences) won't work in Excel 2007 or Excel 2010. The reason is because Excel doesn't make the Color tool available in the Format Data Series dialog box as it does in Excel 2013. (The tool is hidden if the line type is set to Automatic.) So, you must resort to a different technique.

Perhaps the quickest way to find out the RGB values of a color is to use a specialized tool outside of Excel. A class of tool known as a "color picker" can be used to show the color of any pixel on the screen—including those used in a chart line. The following are a few different color pickers you can check out:

http://www.blacksunsoftware.com/colormania.html
http://www.eltima.com/products/free-color-picker/
http://instant-eyedropper.com
http://www.picpick.org

This list of suggestions isn't exhaustive, by any means. You should be able to do a web search for "color picker" (with the quotes) and find literally scores of such utilities.

When working with automatic colors in charts, remember that Excel can and often does change them whenever a chart is regenerated. (They are automatic, after all.) This is particularly true if you change a single data series so it is no longer automatic of if you add to or remove from the chart's underlying data.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12632) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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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What is four minus 0?

2017-05-25 02:44:10

Michael Gamlen

Is any control over the "automatic" colour options possible? It is a real nuisance that Excel changes the colors effectively at random.


2013-05-15 17:22:58

Richard Price

Melanie: I finally got a chance to try it in Excel 2010, and it seems to be the same as in Excel 2007 (see below).


2013-05-14 14:10:32

Aldo Santolla

Select then them color and then select More colors... In the color Custom area for either fill or font, you will always get the RGB code for the specific theme color you selected. The theme color is a group of colors that can be change collectively. What their actual colors are will be only known by looking at the Custom color dialog window.


2013-05-13 09:10:19

Melanie Mayes

How do you do that in 2010 Excel?


2013-05-13 02:54:45

Richard Price

In Excel 2007, the first 6 automatic series colours appear in the top row of the Theme Colors in the dialog box you get for manually selecting colours, so you can in fact select any of these and get the RGB values via More Colors... as described above. I'm pretty sure that the next several series use colours from the next 5 rows of Theme Colors as well, although they are a bit more tricky to spot.


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