Using Patterns and Gradients in Excel

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Filling cells with vibrant colors is extremely easy to do, but Excel also has advanced options that allow you to use your Format Cell dialog box to pattern and shade these colors as well. This Excel tutorial will show you how to use these features to your advantage. You will learn Excel the easy way and be able to implement advanced coloring into your worksheets.

Before we can do anything, you will need to click on a single cell or highlight a group of cells that you wish to work in. Once this is done, you need to bring up the Format Cell dialog box. Go to the Home tab in your Excel toolbar. From there you will be able to find the Font box, which has a small downward-facing arrow in the bottom right-hand corner. Click on this and then click on the Fill tab in the new window:

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    • Cell Fill Pattern

On the right-hand side of the Fill tab in the Format Cells dialog box, you have the option to choose a pattern color and style. Click on the arrow beside Pattern Color and choose the color you wish to use. Then click the arrow next to Pattern Style and choose the one that you will put into your worksheet.  Finally, click OK and Excel will perform the task for you. Here is an example of what the different patterns will look like in action:

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    • Cell Fill Gradient

Underneath the Background Color section of the Fill tab on the Format Cells dialog box, you will see a button that says Fill Effects… When you click on it, a new window will appear that looks like this:

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You can choose two colors and merge them together, giving a stunning shading effect. At the top, click on the little arrow next to Color 1 and pick one. Then click on Color 2 and choose the next one. In the bottom right-hand corner under Sample, you can see an example of what you are creating.

Under Shading Styles, you can choose the style you want. It will show you how the option will look under Variants. There are six options available and once you have chosen one, click OK. It will take you back to the Format Cell dialog box where you can preview your choice at the bottom (under Sample). If you like the effect, then click OK on this window as well. Excel will automatically create gradients in your highlighted cells. Here are examples of what each option will look like:

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If you wish to remove any of this formatting, simply click on the No Fill option on the Fill Color drop-down menu. This is found in the Font box on the Home tab:

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Patterns and gradients are generally used for visual stimulation. They provide a lively break between data grouped in different rows or columns, and are also responsible for highlighting information that needs to stand out from the rest of the spreadsheet. Among the most ‘fun’ features Excel offers, professional worksheets will differ from the usual boring layout typically used by most people.