How to Highlight in Excel

Colorize your data for maximum impact

Choosing to highlight cells in Excel can be a great way to make certain data or words stand out or to increase readability within a file that has a lot of information. Both cells and text can be selected as a highlight in Excel, and the colors can be fully customized to suit your needs. Here’s how to highlight on Excel.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, and Excel for Microsoft 365.

How to Highlight Cells in Excel

Cells are the boxes that contain text within a Microsoft Excel document, though many are also completely empty. Both empty and filled Excel cells can be customized in a variety of different ways, including being given a colored highlight.

  1. Open the Microsoft Excel document on your device.

    Highlighting a cell in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

    If you're new to Excel and you haven't created a document yet, there are a number of free Excel templates that can be used.

  2. Select the cell you want to highlight.

    Highlighting a cell in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

    To select a group of cells in Excel, select one, press Shift, then select another. Alternatively, you can select individual cells that are separate from each other by holding down Ctrl while you select them.

  3. From the top menu, select Home.

  4. Select Cell Styles.

    Highlighting a cell in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
  5. A menu with a variety of cell color options will drop down. Hover your mouse cursor over each color to see a live preview of the cell color change in the Excel file.

    Highlighting a cell in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
  6. When you’ve found a highlight color that you like, select it to apply the change.

    Highlighting a cell in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

    If you change your mind, press Ctrl+Z to undo the cell highlight.

  7. Repeat for any other cells that you want to apply a highlight to.

    Highlighting a cell in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

To select all of the cells in a column or row, select the numbers on the side of the document or the letters at the top.

How to Highlight Text in Excel

If you just want to highlight text in Excel instead of the entire cell, you can do that too. Here’s how to highlight in Excel when you just want to change the color of the words in the cell.

  1. Open your Microsoft Excel document.

    Highlighting a word in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
  2. Double-click the cell you want to edit.

    Highlighting a word in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

    If you're having trouble performing a double-click, you may need to adjust your mouse sensitivity.

  3. Press the left mouse button and drag it across the words to highlight them.

    Highlighting a word in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
  4. A small menu should appear. Select the Font Color icon to use the default color option or select the arrow next to it to choose a custom color.

    Highlighting a word in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

    You can also use this menu to apply bold or italics style options as you would in Microsoft Word and other text editor programs.

  5. Select your preferred text color.

    Highlighting a word in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
  6. Your text highlight should now be applied. Select elsewhere within the Excel document to deselect the cell.

    Highlighting a word in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

How to Create a Microsoft Excel Highlight Style

There are a lot of default cell style options in Microsoft Excel but, if you don’t like any of the available choices, you can create your own personal style.

  1. Open Microsoft Excel.

    Creating a highlight theme in Microsoft Excel on Windows 10.
  2. Select Home.

  3. Select Cell Styles.

    Creating a highlight theme in Microsoft Excel on Windows 10.
  4. Select New Cell Style.

    Creating a highlight theme in Microsoft Excel on Windows 10.
  5. Enter a name for your cell style, then select Format.

    Creating a highlight theme in Microsoft Excel on Windows 10.
  6. Select Fill.

    Creating a highlight theme in Microsoft Excel on Windows 10.
  7. Choose your color, then select Okay twice to save your cell style.

    Creating a highlight theme in Microsoft Excel on Windows 10.

You should now see your custom cell style at the top of the Cell Styles menu.