Automatically Changing a Cell's Background Color

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 3, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365

Jim wrote in, asking how to automatically change the background color of cell A1 on Sheet2 to match the background color of cell A1 on Sheet1 if the background color of cell A1 on Sheet1 changes.

The answer to this question depends on whether the Sheet1!A1 cell is changing color because of conditional formatting or if the color is changing because the user is explicitly changing the color.

Believe it or not, if the color change is the result of conditional formatting, then the answer is easy—all you need to do is add a conditional formatting rule to the Sheet2!A1 cell that is essentially the same as the rule used for the Sheet1!A1 cell. The only potential difference is that your rule for Sheet2!A1 may need to include worksheet references, such as those being used in this paragraph.

If the color of Sheet1!A1 is changing because the user if making the change, then you need to resort to using a macro. Unfortunately, there is no workbook or worksheet event that can handle color changes in a cell. You can, however, create an event handler that will execute whenever the user makes Sheet2 active. (This makes sense; the user can only see what is in cell A1 in that sheet when the sheet is made active.) Here's an example event handler that can be added to the code sheet for Sheet2:

Private Sub Worksheet_Activate()
    Dim rSource As Range

    Set rSource = Worksheets("Sheet1").Range("A1")
    Range("A1").Interior.Color = rSource.DisplayFormat.Interior.Color
End Sub

Interestingly enough, this macro will work even if the color of Sheet1!A1 is being affected by a conditional formatting rule. The secret is the use of the DisplayFormat object, which represents the format as it is displayed, rather than as it is explicitly formatted.


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 (13879) 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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