Close this search box.

Conditionally Format Chart Backgrounds



Recently, Paul, a reader, of the Chandoo Blog Post: Colors-in-excel-chart-labels-trick asked a question:

“Hi Chandoo,

Is it possible to change the background label color on chart depending on the value? ”

I answered with a general “Yes” and offered two solutions
1. Using CF to color the background cells behind the chart
2. A VBA Solution to change the chart colors

This post will examine how to implement each method:

I have attached sample files which includes both examples Excel 2007-13 Sample or Excel 97-2003 Sample
You can follow along in this file before attempting it on your own data.


Using Conditional Formatting to Color the background cells

In the sample file goto the CF Technique worksheet

In CF Technique worksheet you will see a set of data with dates and Scores for each date


Below the main table is a calculation of the slope of the line of best fit through the data
This shows either a positive number when the data is trending upwards or a negative number when it is trending downwards

For the purpose of this we can simply change the yellow cell C13 from 90 to 10 to change the slope from a Positive to a Negative value


Next to the chart is a simple X-Y Chart showing the Scores vs the Date (Blue) and a Line of best fit (Dashed Red)

The chart is exactly covering the range E3:L15, this is achieved by placing the chart roughly in position and then holding the Alt Button whilst dragging the corners or edges of the chart.

Note: The use of Alt forces Excel to Snap the object onto the cell edges and lock it there, so that when the column width or row height changes, the Chart will resize with it.

Next we set the colors of the Chart Area and Plot Area to Transparent (No Color)

The Chart area is the Background area of the chart, White in the following example

The Chart area is the Background area of the chart, Yellow in the following example


We can see that the chart area has no color in the above picture as we can see the Grid Lines through the Chart Area.

Format the Chart Area

Select the Chart

Right Click in the Chart Area,


Format Chart Area

Click on the Fill Tab and set the Fill to No Fill

Format the Plot Area

With the chart selected, Right Click in the Plot Area,
Format Plot Area
Click on the Fill Tab and set the Fill to No Fill

Click outside the chart

Apply a Conditional Formatting to the Range behind the Chart

Select the range E3:L15 (You won’t be able to use a mouse) or drag the chart out of the way first.

Goto Conditional Formatting Tab
New Rule
Use a formula to determine which cells to format
Enter the formula: =$C$15>0
Select the Format Button and select a Light Redish Color

Goto Conditional Formatting Tab
New Rule
Use a formula to determine which cells to format
Enter the formula: =$C$15<=0
Select the Format Button and select a Light Greenish Color


Now change the value of C15 from 90 to 10

The chart should change as per the below image:



  • Doesn’t require VBA (VBA not permitted on some corporate systems)
  • Simple to setup for those unfamiliar with VBA


  • The Chart is locked to the cells and can’t be moved moved independently of the background cells
  • More difficult to implement multiple color scenarios
  • Harder to permit independent changes to the Chart and Plot areas


Using VBA to directly change the color of the Chart Chart Area

In the sample file goto the VBA Technique worksheet

You will see the same set of data with dates and Scores for each date

Select the Chart and notice that the Chart is called “Chart 1”


Goto VBA, Press Alt+F11

Double click on the VBA Technique code module


Copy and paste the following code into the module

Private Sub Worksheet_Calculate()

Dim myColor As Long
Dim myChart As String

Application.EnableEvents = False

If ActiveSheet.Name <> "VBA Technique" Then Exit Sub

myChart = "Chart 1"

If [c15] <> [OldSlope] Then

  If [c15] > 0 Then
    myColor = RGB(250, 190, 145) 'Apricot
    myColor = RGB(135, 235, 145) 'Pale Green
  End If
  ' Color the Chart Area
  With ActiveSheet.Shapes(myChart).Fill
    .Visible = msoTrue
    .ForeColor.RGB = myColor
    .Transparency = 0
  End With
  ' Color the Plot Area
  With Selection.Format.Fill
    .Visible = msoTrue
    .ForeColor.RGB = myColor
    .Transparency = 0
  End With
  ActiveWorkbook.Names.Add Name:="OldSlope", RefersToR1C1:="=" + CStr(Cells(15, 3).Value)
End If

Application.EnableEvents = True

End Sub


Return to the Excel worksheet

Now change the value of C15 from 90 to 10


If the Chart area doesn’t change color follow the following few steps

Goto VBA (Alt+F11)
Open the Immediate window (Ctrl+G)
Type in Application.EnableEvents = True press enter
Go back to Excel (Alt+F11)


  • Allows the Chart to be moved independently of the background cells
  • Allows a much simpler implementation of multiple color scenarios
  • Allows independent changes to the Chart and Plot areas as well as other Chart Elements


  • Requires VBA (not permitted on some corporate systems)


Other Chart Conditional Formatting Posts

You may also be interested in the following Chart Formatting posts:





What do you think of these techniques?

Let us know in the comments below.


Share this tip with your colleagues

Excel and Power BI tips - Chandoo.org Newsletter

Get FREE Excel + Power BI Tips

Simple, fun and useful emails, once per week.

Learn & be awesome.

Welcome to Chandoo.org

Thank you so much for visiting. My aim is to make you awesome in Excel & Power BI. I do this by sharing videos, tips, examples and downloads on this website. There are more than 1,000 pages with all things Excel, Power BI, Dashboards & VBA here. Go ahead and spend few minutes to be AWESOME.

Read my storyFREE Excel tips book

Overall I learned a lot and I thought you did a great job of explaining how to do things. This will definitely elevate my reporting in the future.
Rebekah S
Reporting Analyst
Excel formula list - 100+ examples and howto guide for you

From simple to complex, there is a formula for every occasion. Check out the list now.

Calendars, invoices, trackers and much more. All free, fun and fantastic.

Advanced Pivot Table tricks

Power Query, Data model, DAX, Filters, Slicers, Conditional formats and beautiful charts. It's all here.

Still on fence about Power BI? In this getting started guide, learn what is Power BI, how to get it and how to create your first report from scratch.

Compare two Excel sheets

How to compare two Excel sheets using VLOOKUP? [FREE Template]

You are the boss of ACME Inc. And one day, both of your accounts receivables team members Sara and James come to you with two versions of the customer payment data. How do you compare these two Excel sheets and reconcile the data? In this article, let me explain the step by step process.

19 Responses to “Conditionally Format Chart Backgrounds”

  1. Khalid NGO says:

    Hi Hui,
    Very good post Sir, I had never seen Charts with CF before.
    Thank you...

    1 question:
    I have download the file, I am using 2007, and the chart on "VBA Technique" is not changing color while updating the values of Col C.
    I am not getting what I am doing wrong.


    • Hui... says:


      A few ideas

      Save it to a trusted location and re-open it
      Enable macros
      It should then be ok

      If it still doesn't work goto VBA (Alt+F11)
      Open the Immediate window Ctrl+G
      type in Application.EnableEvents = True press enter
      Go back to Excel (Alt+F11)
      Change the Cell C13 again

      Let me know if it still isn't working

  2. Khalid NGO says:

    Oh great....
    It worked after i followed your instruction for immediate window..
    Many thanks Sir.

  3. […] he became Chandoo. I was going through emails before a good night sleep that I read his latest article and went through the technique he employed. He discussed two possibilities and immediately the […]

  4. […] shows two ways to change the background color on a chart, depending on a cell value. One method used VBA and the other uses conditional […]

  5. Jayant says:

    Excellent, also i need some guide lines to prepare dynamic chart like this one http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/realprices/ , check on the range selectors on the scroll bar. i need to to keep my historical data ( past 8 years) summarized and this way it would be helpful.

    • Hui... says:

      Excel 2013 includes a Date Selector which allows just this as a slicer

      Prior to 2013 you could do this with two controls
      one to set the start time and a second to set the duration of the window

      For more specific help please ask a question at the Chandoo.org Forums
      Please attach a sample file to allow a more specific answer.

  6. Andy F says:

    There is a workaround to the disadvantage of the formatting not moving with a dragged chart in the non-VBA method:

    1. Conditionally format a range out of the display area
    2. Take a snapshot of the conditionally formatted range
    3. Group the snapshot output with the chart
    4. Send the snapshot to the back of the group

    • Lasse says:

      I was about to suggest copying the ranges and inserting it as a linked image- that way it is resizable -to a point- and acts as one object with the conditional formatting -when moving, resizing, etc.

  7. devi says:

    i did one macro with in that particular one sheet only i want to set
    .DisplayFullScreen=ture but i was affected all the excel workbook
    i want to set this option to particular workbook and worksheet only not all the others

  8. devi says:

    pls help us to slove this problem its urgent

    • Hui... says:

      You will need to add a line to a Workbook close event like:

      If you want it to apply to other worksheets in the same workbook
      add a similar line to each WorksheetActivate event

      I am not on a pc and so can't try the actual code or event names

  9. […] How to do Conditional Formatting in the Chart […]

  10. CharlesHarris says:


    On chart at top of this page there is a chart with plot area of 5 rows. Want to conditionally format each row based on a number in the source sheet it self.

    Hop to modify above code.



  11. Hardik Ruparelia says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Can you help with using same code for multiple charts in the sheet


  12. Yoke says:

    How do I format the background color to 3 colors? I have a graph 0 to 110%. 0 to 80% should be green, 81 to 90% should be yellow and 91 to 110% is red. How do I do that?


Leave a Reply