How to Make Alternating Colors in Excel – A Comprehensive Guide

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Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool for data organization and analysis, and its versatility makes it a favorite among professionals and students alike. One of the features that can significantly enhance the readability of your Excel sheets is alternating colors.

This simple yet effective formatting technique can make it easier to distinguish between rows or columns, improving the overall visual appeal of your data.

In this article, we will delve into the step-by-step process of how to make alternating colors in Excel, exploring its importance and the impact it can have on data presentation.

Importance of Alternating Colors:          

Before we jump into the “how,” let’s understand the “why.” Utilizing alternating colors in Excel serves several crucial purposes:

  1. Enhanced Readability: Alternating colors provide a visual cue that helps the eyes follow the data more easily. This is especially beneficial when dealing with large datasets, reducing the risk of making errors or overlooking important information.
  2. Pattern Recognition: Alternating colors assist in pattern recognition, making it simpler to identify trends or irregularities in your data. By highlighting every other row or column, you create a structured and visually appealing layout that aids in drawing attention to specific details.
  3. Professional Presentation: When you present data to colleagues, clients, or stakeholders, a well-formatted spreadsheet enhances professionalism. Alternating colors contribute to a polished and organized appearance, showcasing your attention to detail and commitment to delivering clear, comprehensible information.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Make Alternating Colors in Excel

Now, let’s walk through the process of creating alternating colors in Excel:

Step 1: Open Your Excel Spreadsheet

Begin by opening the Excel spreadsheet containing the data you want to format. If you don’t have a spreadsheet yet, create one or open an existing file.

Step 2: Select the Range

Choose the range of cells where you want to apply alternating colors. You can select a single column, multiple columns, a single row, or multiple rows—whatever suits your data.

Step 3: Navigate to the Home Tab

Locate the “Home” tab on the Excel ribbon at the top of the window. This tab contains various formatting options.

Step 4: Find the “Format as Table” Option

In the “Styles” group within the “Home” tab, find and click on the “Format as Table” option. Choose a table style that suits your preference, as this will automatically apply alternating colors to your selected range.

Step 5: Adjust Table Style Options (Optional)

If you want more control over the alternating colors, right-click on the formatted table, and select “Table” from the context menu. Here, you can modify the table style, including alternating row colors.

Step 6: Use Conditional Formatting

If you prefer a more customized approach, select your desired range, go to the “Home” tab, and click on “Conditional Formatting.” Choose “New Rule” from the dropdown menu.

Step 7: Create a New Rule

In the “New Formatting Rule” dialog box, select “Use a formula to determine which cells to format.” Enter a formula that will determine when the formatting should change. For example, you can use a formula like =MOD(ROW(),2)=0 for alternating row colors.

Step 8: Choose Formatting Style

After defining your formula, click on the “Format” button to choose the formatting style for the alternating rows. Set the background color, font color, and other formatting options according to your preference.

Step 9: Review and Apply

Review your settings in the “Format Cells” dialog box, and when satisfied, click “OK” to apply the alternating colors to your selected range.

Step 10: Save Your Work

Finally, don’t forget to save your spreadsheet to ensure that the alternating colors are preserved.


Mastering the art of how to make alternating colors in Excel is a valuable skill for anyone working with data. Beyond the aesthetic improvement, this formatting technique significantly contributes to data readability, pattern recognition, and overall professionalism in your presentations.

By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can effortlessly enhance the visual appeal of your Excel spreadsheets and elevate your data presentation to the next level.

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