Excel Format Painter: Copy Formatting Between Cells

Streamline your spreadsheet formatting

The Format Painter feature in Excel and Google Sheets allows you to quickly and easily copy formatting from one cell, or a group of cells, to another area of a worksheet.

The instructions in the article apply to Excel versions 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, Excel Online, and Excel for Mac.

Image of a formatted spreadsheet
nigelcarse/Getty Images 

Excel and Google Sheets Format Painter

In Excel and Sheets, the Format Painter feature is especially useful when you want to apply formatting in a worksheet to areas containing new data. When you use Format Painter instead of re-creating the formatting, your formatting will be uniform throughout your worksheets.

In Excel, the format copying options make it possible to copy the source formatting one or more times to one or more locations. These locations can be on the same worksheet, on another worksheet in the same workbook, or in a different workbook.

Copy Formatting Between Cells with the Format Painter in Excel.

Multiple Copying With Format Painter

Open a blank workbook in Excel, enter the data shown in the above image, and follow these steps to apply the formatting on data in column B to the data in columns C and D: 

  1. Add all the formatting options you want to use to the source cell(s).

    Data entered into Excel.
  2. Highlight cells B4 to B8.

    Cells B4 through B8 are selected in Excel.
  3. Select Home.

    Selecting the Home tab in Excel.
  4. Select Format Painter.

    Selecting Format painter in Excel.
  5. Hover the mouse pointer above a cell in to display a paintbrush with a pointer. This indicates that Format Painter has been activated.

    The format painter cursor changes to a paintbrush in Excel.
  6. Highlight cells C4 to D8.

    Cells C4 through D8 are selected in Excel.
  7. The formatting options are copied to the new location and Format Painter is turned off.

    The finished product of format painter in Excel.

Double Click the Format Painter for Multiple Copying

An additional option (available only in Excel) is to double-click Format Painter. This keeps Format Painter turned on even after selecting one or more destination cells. This option makes it easy to copy formatting to multiple non-adjacent cell(s) located either on the same or different worksheets or workbooks.

To copy formatting to non-adjacent groups of cells in Google Sheets, repeat the steps above for copying formatting to a second worksheet area. 

Turn Off the Format Painter in Excel

There are two methods to turn off Format Painter when it is in multiple copy mode in Excel:

  • Press ESC.
  • Select Format Painter.

Keyboard Shortcut for Excel's Format Painter

A simple, two key shortcut does not exist for Excel's Format Painter. However, the following key combinations can be used to mimic Format Painter. These keys use the paste options found in the Paste Special dialog box.

  1. Press Ctrl+C to copy the contents of the source cell(s), including data and applied formatting. The source cell(s) are surrounded by a dotted line.

    Cells C4 through C8 are selected in Excel.
  2. Highlight the destination cell or adjacent cells.

    Cells D4 through D8 are selected in Excel.
  3. Press Ctr+Alt+V to open Paste Special options.

    The Paste special dialog box in Excel.
  4. Press T+Enter (or select Formats under Paste) to paste the applied formatting to the destination cell(s).

    The formats paste setting is highlighted in Excel.

As long as the dotted line appears around the source cell(s), the cell formatting can be pasted multiple times. To paste the formatting multiple times, repeat steps 2 to 4 above.

Create a Macro

If you use Format Painter frequently, an easy way to apply it using the keyboard is to create a macro. Open the Macro Recorder, use the keyboard shortcuts, and assign a shortcut key combination that activates the macro.

Sheets Paint Format

Google Sheets' Paint Format option copies source formatting to only one destination at a time. In Google Sheets, the source formatting can be copied to areas of the same worksheet or to different worksheets in the same file. It cannot copy formatting between files.

Open a blank Sheets workbook, copy the data from the original spreadsheet above, and follow these steps to copy the formatting from cells B4:B8 to cells C4:D8:

  1. Add all the formatting options to the source cells.

    Data entered into a Google Sheet.
  2. Highlight cells B4 to B8.

    Cells B4 through B8 are highlighted in Sheets.
  3. Select Paint Format (it looks like a paint roller).

    Format painter is selected in Sheets.
  4. Highlight the destination cells C4 to D8.

    Cells C4 through D8 are highlighted in Sheets.
  5. The formatting used on the cells in column B are copied to the cells in columns C and D. Then, Paint Format is turned off.

    A newly formatted spreadsheet in Sheets.

Multiple Copying with Paint Format

Paint Format in Google Sheets is limited to copying formatting to only one destination at a time

To copy formatting to non-adjacent groups of cells in Google Sheets, repeat the steps above for copying formatting to a second worksheet area.