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How do I change the theme color in excel for mac?

Excel for Mac allows you to customize the overall theme color to personalize the look of the application. The theme color changes the colors used for elements like cell grids, header rows, the ribbon toolbar, sidebar backgrounds, and more. Here’s how to change the theme color in Excel for Mac.

Check Your Excel Version

Theme colors were introduced in Excel 2016 for Mac. If you have an older version of Excel for Mac, you won’t have the option to change the theme color. To check your version number:

  1. Open Excel
  2. Click the Excel menu and select “About Excel”
  3. The version number will be displayed in the window that pops up

If you have Excel 2016 or later, you can proceed with changing the theme color. For earlier versions, you may be able to find third-party plugins for customized themes, but it’s not built into the app.

Change the Theme Color

To change the theme color in Excel 2016 or later for Mac:

  1. Click the Excel menu and select “Preferences”
  2. Click on “General”
  3. Under “Excel Application”, click the drop-down box next to “Theme Color”
  4. Select your desired theme color from the dropdown options

This will immediately change the theme color of your Excel application. The available theme color options include:

  • Blue (default)
  • White
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Gray

Once you’ve selected a theme color, it will be remembered and applied each time you open Excel.

Customize Specific Theme Elements

In addition to the overall theme color, you can also customize specific theme elements within the Excel preferences:

  1. Go to Excel > Preferences > General
  2. Click on “Theme Elements”
  3. You can toggle any of the theme elements to your desired colors:
Theme Element Customizable Colors
Ribbon Blue, White, Gray
Sheet Tabs Blue, White, Gray
Gridlines Blue, Gray
Header Row Blue, White, Gray
Formula Bar Blue, White, Gray
Status Bar Blue, White, Gray
Chart Area White, Gray
PivotTable Areas Blue, White, Gray

This allows you to mix and match theme elements to create a custom styled Excel theme. The overall theme color you set will determine the default colors used, but you can override individual parts with this Theme Elements setting.

Use Colors and Cell Styles for Custom Themes

In addition to the built-in theme options, you can create custom color themes in Excel for Mac by applying colors and cell styles:

  1. Select a cell or cell range you want to format
  2. On the Home tab, open the Font Color drop down and select the desired color
  3. You can also select a Fill Color to color the cell background
  4. Open the Cell Styles gallery to apply a styled format to the cell

Combine colors, fills, and styles across rows, columns, or entire sheets to essentially “paint” your own theme. This takes more manual work than the theme presets, but offers unlimited customization options.

Some tips for creating your own color themes:

  • Use theme colors from the Theme Elements menu for consistency
  • Add style and color to header rows and totals columns to define sections
  • Alternate row colors for better readability of data
  • Make key data stand out with unique fills or text colors

Take the time to plan out and apply custom colors and styles and you can come up with creative new themes for your Excel workbooks.

Limitations of Excel Themes on Mac

While Excel’s theme options provide some helpful ways to customize the look of your workbooks, there are some limitations to be aware of:

  • Limited theme color options – Only 5 preset options.
  • Default color palettes – Themes use the same default blue/white/gray palettes.
  • Difficulty creating cohesive themes – It takes work to color code sheets for a unified theme.
  • Themes don’t transfer between platforms – Custom themes created on Mac won’t show up the same on Windows.
  • Themes reset on refresh – If you refresh Excel, custom themes and colors may be lost.

While Excel themes are useful for basic personalization, developing more advanced, creative themes requires mixing colors, styles, and elements. And you need to be careful about cross-platform use and refreshing the app to avoid losing customizations.

Third Party Add-ins for Advanced Themes

To access more advanced theming functionality, there are various third party add-ins available:

  • Envizion: Provides additional theme colors and controls over all interface elements.
  • TM Theme Manager: Unlocks 100+ color combinations and controls for custom interface themes.
  • StyleX: Offers theme creation tools focused on cell colors, fonts, styles, and formatting.

These add-ins typically cost between $10-$50 but enable much more flexible control over colors, styles, and applying themes across entire workbooks.


To change the default theme color in Excel for Mac:

  1. Go to Excel > Preferences > General
  2. Select the desired theme color from the dropdown menu

You can also customize individual theme elements like the ribbon, sheet tabs, header rows, and more. While limited compared to Windows, Excel 2016+ for Mac provides basic options to personalize the look and feel.

For more advanced themes, you can manually apply colors and cell styles. Or use third-party add-ins like Envizion and TM Theme Manager to unlock more customizable interfaces, palettes, and controls over all elements.

With some tweaking of built-in or add-in settings, you can give your Excel for Mac application a personalized theme that matches your style and work environment.