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.

    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 a cell you want to highlight.

    Excel document with a highlighted 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, followed by Cell Styles.

    The Home tab in Excel with Cell Styles highlighted
  4. A menu with a variety of cell color options pops up. Hover your mouse cursor over each color to see a live preview of the cell color change in the Excel file.

    Color options for cells in Excel
  5. When you find 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.

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

    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.

  2. Double-click the cell containing text you want to format.

    An Excel document with a cell selected

    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 you want to colorize to highlight them. A small menu appears.

    A word highlighted in Excel
  4. Select the Font Color icon in the small menu to use the default color option or select the arrow next to it to choose a custom color.

    Small menu showing the Font color icon in Excel

    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 a text color from the pop-up color palette.

    The pop-up color palette in Excel
  6. The color is applied to the selected text. Select elsewhere in the Excel document to deselect the cell.

    Excel document showing colored text

How to Create a Microsoft Excel Highlight Style

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

  1. Open a Microsoft Excel document.

  2. Select Home, followed by Cell Styles.

    The Excel Home tab with Cell Styles highlighted
  3. Select New Cell Style.

    New Style Style highlighted in Excel
  4. Enter a name for the new cell style and then select Format.

    The name field for a new style and Format highlighted
  5. Select Fill in the Format Cells window.

    Fill selected in the Format Cells window
  6. Choose a fill color from the palette. Choose the Alignment, Font or Border tabs to make other changes to the new style and then select OK to save it.

    Applying a Fill to a new cell style with OK highlighted

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