Excel Drop Down List with Color: A Step-by-Step Guide

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By Matthew Simpson

Creating a drop-down list in Excel that includes color is a nifty way to organize and categorize data. It’s not just about making your spreadsheet look good – it’s about making it functional and easy to navigate. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to add a splash of color to your Excel drop-down lists.

Step by Step Tutorial: Excel Drop Down List with Color

When you have a lot of data, it’s important to keep things organized. Adding color to your drop-down lists in Excel can help you do just that. Let’s dive into the steps to achieve this.

Step 1: Create Your List

Create the list of items you want in your drop-down menu.

In a new Excel sheet, type out the list of items that you want to include in your drop-down list. Make sure each item is in a separate cell in the same column.

Step 2: Define the List Range

Select the cells containing your list and define the range name.

Highlight the cells that contain your list, go to the Formulas tab, click on ‘Name Manager’, and then ‘New’. Name your range and click ‘OK’.

Step 3: Create the Drop Down List

Go to the cell where you want the drop-down list and create it using Data Validation.

Click on the cell where you want your drop-down list to appear. Go to the Data tab, click on ‘Data Validation’, and in the ‘Allow’ box, select ‘List’. In the ‘Source’ box, type the name of your defined list range, and click ‘OK’.

Step 4: Add Color with Conditional Formatting

Use Conditional Formatting to add color to the items in your drop-down list.

Select the cell with your drop-down list, go to the Home tab, click on ‘Conditional Formatting’ and then ‘New Rule’. Choose ‘Format only cells that contain’, and under ‘Format only cells with’, select ‘Cell Value’ and ‘equal to’. Type the item name from your list and set the format by choosing the fill color. Repeat this for each item in your drop-down list.

Step 5: Apply and Test

Apply the formatting and test your colorful drop-down list.

After setting up the conditional formatting for each item, click ‘OK’ to apply the changes. Click on your drop-down list and you should see that each item has the color you assigned to it when selected.

After following these steps, you’ll have a functional drop-down list with color-coded items. This visual cue can help you quickly identify categories or types of data in your spreadsheet.

Tips: Excel Drop Down List with Color

  • Make sure your list items are unique to avoid confusion when applying conditional formatting.
  • Use distinct colors for each item to maximize the visual impact.
  • If you have a long list, consider grouping similar items with the same color.
  • Remember that the color will only appear when an item is selected from the drop-down list.
  • If you update the items in your list, you’ll need to update the conditional formatting rules as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use this method for multiple drop-down lists in the same Excel file?

Yes, you can use this method for as many drop-down lists as you need, just make sure to define a separate range name for each list.

What if I want to use more than one color for an item based on different conditions?

You can create multiple conditional formatting rules for the same cell. Excel will apply the format of the rule that is higher in the list first.

Can I use colors to represent numerical values in a drop-down list?

Yes, you can use the ‘Format only cells that contain’ rule to set up conditional formatting based on numerical values.

Can the colors in the drop-down list be seen by other users when I share the Excel file?

Yes, the colors will be visible to anyone who opens the Excel file, as long as they have a version of Excel that supports conditional formatting.

What happens if I change the items in my original list?

If you change the items in your original list, you will need to update the conditional formatting rules to match the new items. Otherwise, the colors will not display correctly in the drop-down list.


  1. Create your list of items.
  2. Define the list range.
  3. Create the drop-down list with Data Validation.
  4. Add color to items with Conditional Formatting.
  5. Apply the formatting and test your drop-down list.


There you have it! A step-by-step guide on creating an Excel drop-down list with color. It’s a simple yet effective way to make your data more visually appealing and easier to navigate. Imagine being able to see, at a glance, what category an item belongs to just by its color – it’s a game-changer for data management. Plus, it’s a neat trick to impress your colleagues with! Excel drop-down lists with color not only add a touch of personality to your spreadsheets but also enhance functionality. So, roll up your sleeves and get coloring those lists! If you found this guide helpful, be sure to explore more Excel tips and tricks to streamline your data management tasks even further.