Color Scales

Color scales in Excel are similar to Data Bars. Get a quick overview of your data! The shade of the color represents the value in the cell.

Before taking a deep dive, you should know: What is the difference between color scales and data bars?

Data bars represent the relationship between value and colors through the length of a bar. Color scales assign colors to your range based on the selected scheme.

How to add Color Scales

1. Select the data to apply color scales using conditional formatting. In this case, jump to column I and select the range ‘I2: I15’.

select cells in column selling price

2. Select the Home tab, and locate the Styles Group. Click Conditional Formatting.

locate the Home tab on the ribbon to start cf

3. Locate the Color Scales drop-down menu.

Pick the preferred color scheme and click it.

select the type of the color scales

Use the red-white-blue color scale.

The range shows the prices by color. Red cells are higher values, white is the median, and blue cells have lower values.

calculate the min max and median

Explanation: By default, Excel calculates the median and applies three colors to highlight cells.

To calculate the median, use the formula below:

=MEDIAN(I2:I15) = $53.50

  • Cell I5 holds the maximum value ($99), which is red in this case.
  • In cell I11, you can find the minimum value ($15) with blue.
  • All other cells are colored proportionally.


Select the range I2:I15 to change the default rule.

To do that, click Conditional Formatting and select the Manage Rules command from the drop-down list.

manage rules for further customization

After clicking Manage rules, the Edit Formatting Rule window will appear.

rules manager window to check rules

Click ‘Edit Rule.’

If you want to modify the default settings, you can do that (for example, change the formatting style, apply new scales or change the limits for the minimum and maximum range.

Tip: you can use a shortcut to reach this window by clicking More Rules.

built-in rules for color scales

To apply a simple color scale without showing the mid-range values (apply only two colors), do the following:

On the ‘Edit the Rule Description’ tab, change the formatting style to ‘2-Color Scale.’

Select the color picker (use the drop-down list), add white fill for the minimum value, and use blue for the maximum value.

format all cells based on their values using color scales

Click OK, then ‘Apply’ to check the result:

2 color scale

Download the practice file.

Additional training materials:

Istvan Vozar

Istvan is the co-founder of Visual Analytics. He helps people reach the top in Excel.