Specifying Font Color in a Formula

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 19, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Gregory has a desire to specify font color in a cell based on a formula. For instance, a cell might contain a simple IF function, such as =IF(A1>A2,5,7). If the "5" is returned, he would like the font to be normal, but if the "7" is returned, he would like it red. And, it must be noted, Gregory doesn't want to use a conditional formatting rule.

Short of using a macro (as described shortly) there is no way to specify font color in a formula. The easiest way to do this—well, the easiest way that doesn't use conditional formatting—is to create a custom format for the cell containing the formula. The format itself is quite simple:


The first part of the custom format (before the semicolon) indicates how positive numbers should be formatted. The portion after the semicolon indicates how negative numbers should be formatted. (The second, negative portion is included because if it is not, then Excel applies the singular format to every value that may appear in the cell, whether it be positive or negative.)

The first portion, for positive values, indicates that if the value in the cell is "7", then the value is shown in red. If it is any other positive value (including "5"), then it is shown in a regular font. If you want additional information about how to create custom formats, you can find a great tutorial at Mynda Treacy's site:


The drawback to using custom formats in this way, of course, is that it is actually keyed to the value "7". If you want something a bit more generalized such that if any result where A1 is less than or equal to A2 results in the cell being red, then you might be interested in a macro-based approach. The following example is implemented as a user-defined function:

Function TColor(n1 As Double, n2 As Double) As Boolean
    If n1 <= n2 Then
        Application.Caller.Font.ColorIndex = 3
        ' Set font to normal
        Application.Caller.Font.ColorIndex = xlAutomatic
    End If
End Function

In order to use the UDF, just add it to your formula, in the following manner:


The UDF compares A1 to A2 and, if A1 is larger, then the text color is set to normal. If it is less than or equal to A2, then the text color is set to red.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13874) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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 3 + 7?

2021-06-28 10:26:10

J. Woolley

Re. the SetFont and SetFill functions in my previous comment (below), I added an optional Target parameter that permits setting font or fill for any cell or range.

2021-06-23 12:42:55

J. Woolley

This Tip inspired me to add two functions to My Excel Toolbox:
SetFont(Name, Size, Style, Color, Underline, Strikethrough)
and SetFill(Color, PatternStyle, PatternColor)
When these functions appear in a cell formula, they will set that cell's font and/or fill properties. For each function, all property parameters are optional and unchanged if missing.
Using these functions might be more convient than specifying a custom or conditional format for a single cell. They can be used with an IF(...) function to set or reset properties. Each function returns an empty string ("") in a text formula, zero (0) in a numeric formula, or FALSE in a boolean formula.
These functions are in module M_RunMacro. The MyToolbox.xlam add-in file includes all My Excel Toolbox modules and user forms.
See https://sites.google.com/view/MyExcelToolbox/

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