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How do I change the color of a bar or pie chart in Excel?

Changing the colors of chart elements in Excel is easy to do. You can customize the colors of bars in bar charts, slices in pie charts, data points in line and scatter charts, and more. With just a few clicks, you can update colors to make your charts clearer and more visually appealing.

Why Change Chart Colors in Excel?

There are a few key reasons you may want to edit the default colors in your Excel charts:

  • Make charts easier to read and interpret by using colors that stand out against the background
  • Emphasize differences between data by assigning different colors to each data series
  • Coordinate colors to match a company’s brand colors or theme
  • Personalize charts to your own visual preferences
  • Fix color issues if the default colors make a chart hard to read due to insufficient contrast

Excel’s default color theme uses the same colors repeatedly, which works for simple charts. But when you have multiple data series in one chart, consider changing the color scheme to make the data lines and legends clearly distinguishable from one another.

How to Change the Color of Chart Bars

To change the colors of bars in a bar chart, follow these steps:

  1. Select the bar chart you want to edit.
  2. On the Chart Design tab of the ribbon, click on the Shape Fill icon.
  3. Choose a color theme from the drop down menu. Or click on Fill to select a custom color for all bars.
  4. To color each bar differently, click on the bars themselves in the chart, then assign colors using the Shape Fill settings.
  5. You can also right-click on a bar to bring up the formatting options and edit the fill color.

This allows you to quickly restyle the whole bar chart or color code each bar as needed. The colors will update automatically in the chart.

How to Change the Color of Pie Chart Slices

To edit the colors of slices in a pie chart, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the pie chart to select it.
  2. On the Chart Design tab, click the Change Colors button.
  3. Choose one of the predefined color palettes in the drop down menu.
  4. To customize colors further, click on individual pie slices, then use the Shape Fill settings to set colors.
  5. You can also right-click on a slice and choose the Fill Color option to edit the colors.

Keep in mind that the colors are linked to the data points in your source table. So if you rearrange or add data, the colored slices will update accordingly.

How to Change Colors in Line and Scatter Plots

To adjust the colors of data markers in line and xy (scatter) charts:

  1. Select the line or scatter chart.
  2. On the Chart Design tab, click Change Colors.
  3. Pick one of the predefined color schemes.
  4. To customize colors further, click Select Data in the Chart Tools menu.
  5. In the Select Data Source dialog box, choose a data series.
  6. Click on the color palette icon to change the color for that series.
  7. Repeat for each data series as needed.

This will allow you to color code the data lines and markers so it’s easy to differentiate the data visually.

How to Format Chart Text Colors

To update the colors for text elements in a chart:

  1. Click on the text title, labels, or legends that you want to reformat.
  2. On the Chart Tools Format tab, use the Shape Fill settings to choose a text color.
  3. You can also right-click text elements and use the Format option to customize text color and effects.

Make sure text colors have sufficient contrast against the chart background for best visibility. Avoid light text on a light background.

How to Save a Custom Chart Color Scheme

Once you have fine-tuned the colors for a chart, you can save it as a custom theme for reuse:

  1. With the formatted chart selected, go to the Chart Design tab.
  2. Click on Chart Styles and click Save as Template.
  3. Enter a name for your custom chart theme.
  4. Click Save. It will now show under the User Templates section.

Now you can quickly apply your color theme to new charts. Your saved templates will be available every time you use Excel on your device.

Tips for Choosing Chart Colors

Keep these tips in mind when selecting colors for Excel charts:

  • Use highly contrasting colors if you want elements to stand out from the background.
  • Pastel and medium brightness colors are better for charts with lots of data.
  • Avoid red and green together, as they are hard for some people with color blindness to distinguish.
  • Color code data series consistently across multiple charts to help users compare charts.
  • Limit your charts to 3-5 highly distinct colors for best visual impact.


Customizing the colors in your Excel charts is a great way to highlight key data, tailor visualizations to your brand, and improve accessibility. By applying color fills, palettes, and schemes, you can create more attractive and effective charts that are optimized for your specific needs.

Changing colors is easy to do through the Chart Design tab, Shape Fill menu, and right-click formatting options. And you can save customized color themes to reuse across multiple charts for consistency. Use contrasting colors wisely to help convey the stories in your data visually.

With the techniques above, you’ll be able to update chart colors quickly and easily. So your Excel charts will not only present accurate information, but draw attention to the most important insights through strategic use of color.