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How to color coded drop down list in Excel?

doc-color-drop-down-list1
In Excel, create a drop down list can help you a lot, and sometimes, you need to color coded the drop down list values depending on the corresponding selected. For instance, I have created a drop down list of the fruit names, when I select Apple, I need the cell is colored with red automatically, and when I choose Orange, the cell can be colored with orange as following screenshot shown. Are there any good suggestions to solve this?
Color coded drop down list with Conditional Formatting
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arrow blue right bubble Color coded drop down list with Conditional Formatting

For finishing this task, we need to create a drop down list first, and then apply the Conditional Formatting to color the cells. Please do as following steps:

First, create a drop down list:

1. Create a list of data and select a range that you want to put the drop down list values into. In this case, I select column A to put the drop down list, see screenshot:

doc-color-drop-down-list1

2. Click Data > Data Validation > Data Validation, see screenshot:

doc-color-drop-down-list1

3. And in the Data Validation dialog box, click Settings tab, and choose List option from the Allow drop down list, and then click  doc-button-1 button to select the list values that you want to use. See screenshot:

doc-color-drop-down-list1

4. Then click OK, the drop down list has been created as following shown:

doc-color-drop-down-list1

Second, apply the Conditional Formatting to color coded the drop down list values

5. Highlight your drop down cells(here is column A), and go to click Home > Conditional Formatting > New Rule, see screenshot:

doc-color-drop-down-list1

6. In the New Formatting Rule dialog box, click Format only cells that contain option in the Select a Rule Type section, under the Format only cells with section, choose Specific Text from the first drop down list and select containing from the second drop down, then click doc-button-1button to select the value that you want to format a specific color, see screenshot:

doc-color-drop-down-list1

7. Then click Format button, and select one color you like from the Fill tab.
doc-color-drop-down-list1

8. And then click OK > OK to close the dialogs, repeat steps 5 to 7 for each other drop down selection, for example, Peach for green, Grape for purple…

9. After setting the colors for the values, when you choose anyone value from the drop down menu, the cell will be colored with its specified color automatically.

doc-color-drop-down-list1

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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    PM · 1 years ago
    thanks for the really good help
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    oli · 1 years ago
    Hi, this was very helpful. However, now i need to color the whole line in the same color in reference to one cell on the line. know what i mean? can you assist in this too?

    thanks again!
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Sunny · 1 years ago
      Try this: in step 5, Highlight your drop down cells(here is column A) is replace with highlight the whole lines where place your drop down list cells, then apply the conditional formatting rule.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Tonf · 2 years ago
    Thank you ! It worked perfectly for me
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    eds · 2 years ago
    well, finally it works!
    this article should have been informed about the Excel version. Format Conditioning has its new feature in Excel 2013 and above and has quite a little different.
    For example, the step above as mentioned would only work if your MS Excel you are using is version 2010 and above. For below, the reason why it wouldn't worked is because conditioning format should be placed the value on the containing cell i.e you have to type the word apple to the rule (and not $D$2 as stated in the screenshot). The reason why some others had come up a not working is maybe because it use up different version of MS Excel like mine which is MS Excel 2007.

    the value should have been like this upon filing up in Format only cells Specific Text:
    Specific Text - Containing - type the word Apple or grapes or strawberry. Then,
    Go to Format button for your specified color and fonts you desire.

    As for me, you don't need to have select the entire cells in spreadsheet as it would only gotten confuse.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Lauren · 2 years ago
    Very helpful tutorial! Much appreciated!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    chris harris · 2 years ago
    How can I change the colors to a pattern type thatch? In multiple cells/columns to something more aesthetic. Would like to send you a screen shot of what i'm creating, would you assist?
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    bachie · 2 years ago
    This Is really cool I tried It & It worked I feel so good about it.

    Thanks
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    R.Karanth · 2 years ago
    it is helpful to data validation colour change the perticular name
    thank you
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Amjad · 3 years ago
    It worked.... Many Many Thanks.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Harbindar · 3 years ago
    Kudos - this really helped and gave the best examples compared to most sites. Thank You.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    vinay · 3 years ago
    Hi,
    what if i need different color for the same text in the dropdown? if supppose i have text X two times in the dropdown and i want two different colors for X because here color is representing two different results irrespective of the text.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    pavan · 3 years ago
    it is working for me when but for only for the first cell what i have enable in the dropdown
    i want to use it for many times.
    plz solve my issue
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    kARINE · 3 years ago
    Fantastic, very helpful, took me a couple of trials but got it pretty quickly,
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Troy · 3 years ago
    Worked perfect! Thanks for the pictures and detailed description. Didn't expect this to be so many steps
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Tayah · 3 years ago
    I am only able to change the first item in the list, but when I try it with the others it changes the color of the other options to the same thing.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Edukondalu · 4 years ago
    Excellent, it helped to me while creating some templates.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Mary · 4 years ago
    I wanted to use the color to tell me what Data Validation text cells had changed (after sending back to client).
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Sharon · 4 years ago
    Great. Thanks Charlotte. Took a few goes to get all my rules working as I had quite a few drop down options to correct, but worked eventually. I didn't fancy changing some other formatting by cutting and pasting, so a really good option. New skill acquired!
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    Charlotte · 4 years ago
    To those who followed the steps but found when they selected something from the drop down list the colour wasn't coming up you need to as Jocelyn says, make sure that your selection of where to apply the change to covers your whole spreadsheet. To do this click in the cell entry (like Apple) and go back to Conditional Formatting -> find the colour you're looking for in 'cell value contains' and click on the value selector button -> this will show that you have selected one cell, you need to then go back to your spreadsheet and click in the top left corner of your spreadsheet to select all content and hit return then click OK. This should now work - it did for me. Thanks for this article - very useful!
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Charlotte · 3 years ago
      To clarify - you highlight the cell and go to conditional formatting, manage rules and then change the selection that the rule applies to, to ensure it applies to the whole spreadsheet (easiest way to do that is to click the top left corner of the spreadsheet).
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Jocelyn · 4 years ago
    This is awesome!
    Very useful and time saving for my work!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Jenny · 4 years ago
    You can apply the conditional formatting to the values that the dropdown feeds off of, so that it reflects everywhere you put the drop down automatically. After you add your rules for formatting, go into Rules Manager and ensure the rule is being applied to the entire spreadsheet and not just one value cell.
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    Cpt. Haym · 4 years ago
    Man, this is what I was exactly looking for. Thank you very much!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    imahogg · 4 years ago
    This works perfectly. If it doesn't work for you, remember to place the conditional formatting to the cell where you want the drop down placed, not on the drop down text. It didn't work for me at first, but when I read these comments, I understood where I went wrong. It works great.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    JP · 4 years ago
    Worked well and is simple.
    Thanks
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    d · 4 years ago
    Worked like a champ. Thanks! Remember to do conditional formatting to the cell which will use the drop and not the values in the drop down. Once I did that it worked as designed.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Tracy Perrin · 4 years ago
    I've set up my drop down boxes in excel. I now want to include this into an email so my recipients can use the drop downs. When I insert excel spreadsheet into Outlook and send email,drop downs don't work.
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    jagoan · 5 years ago
    it works... thank you :-)
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Amtrix · 5 years ago
    Excellent page, just what I was looking for.
    Many thanks.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Adam Pavey · 5 years ago
    Works brilliantly. Thanks very much.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Sung · 5 years ago
    Awesome! It was very helpful. Thank you.
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    ian · 5 years ago
    won't work for me either
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    narusso · 5 years ago
    This will format the cell with the data chosen via the pulldown list, but it will *not* format the options you see in the pulldown list before you select one. In other words, it's just Data Validation and Conditional Formatting on the same cell -- not formatted pulldown list entries.
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    jdl · 5 years ago
    It didn't work for me either. I followed it step by step 3 times and still no color.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Balaji · 5 years ago
    It's very helpful to saparate the data with colours.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Shabnam · 5 years ago
    This is good stuff but it does not work for me. I formatted the cells that I used for my list with the colours but when I select from my list it's not working. Please help!
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    Richard Hay · 5 years ago
    I can get to point 6 then when i select specifc text and containg, when i go to use the cell location icon it is not there, can anybody help please. I have tried just putting in the cell details but this does not work either.help required please.
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    Ianford · 5 years ago
    Awesome stuff, made me look so genius to my friend
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    shri · 5 years ago
    extremely helpful :-)
    thank you
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Ben Quinn · 5 years ago
    Really great and useful and clear. THANK YOU.
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Christy · 5 years ago
      What if I can click on the cell, but it won't let me click on conditional formatting. It is black and is not an option.
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    Torama · 5 years ago
    Tiger,

    For the conditional formatting, make sure you are highlighting the cells where you will see the data in the spreadsheet, not the cells where you wrote the drop down menu options.
    Do that with only one cell, when you got it to work, just drag this cell around to cover your entire spreadsheet.
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    Tiger · 5 years ago
    I tried this but it will not display colours when selecting from the drop down list. What on earth am I doing wrong?
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      eds · 2 years ago
      Hi Tiger,

      I works only if you type the word what is the value or word in cell such like apple or grape etc.
      Meaning, instead of you type the $D$2, it should be you the word apple.

      Try and let me know if still doenst work.