More than 3 Conditional Formats in Excel

more-than-three-conditional-formats-excel-howtoOne of the most popular posts on this blog is how to become excel conditional formatting rock star. Quite a few commenters there asked me if there is a way to get more than 3 (or 4) conditional formats in excel 2003. Like what you see below:

You can get more than three conditional formats in excel using VBA / macros. Last week I had sometime to put together a simple VBA script using which you can get more than 3 conditional formats in Microsoft excel. Just follow the below 3 steps.

  1. Download the VBA Macro for getting more than 3 conditional formats
    Just copy the VBA Macro cFormat() to your workbook or place it in wherever you keep all your macros.
  2. In your workbook, define 3 named ranges.
    data2use: This range contains the cells to be formatted.
    conditions2use: This range is identical in shape and size to data2use and contains conditions for the data range start from 1 to n (n being the maximum number of conditional formats your would like to have)
    formats2use: This range contains “n” cells each formatted in a way you would like to format the cells in data2use range.

    See this illustration to understand how these 3 ranges are used to create more than 3 conditional formats:


  3. Finally hit Alt+F8 (or menu > tools > macro > macros) and run the cFormat macro. The conditional formatting macro you have just downloaded will format the “data2use” range by scanning “conditions2use” range and using the formats in “formats2use” range. If you are curious to see how the VBA script looked like, see the cFormat macro code
  4. Make sure you have downloaded the workbook with code for getting more than 3 conditional formats in excel

What would you use this trick for? A giant heat map, project plan … ?


Hello Awesome...

My name is Chandoo. Thanks for dropping by. My mission is to make you awesome in Excel & your work. I live in Wellington, New Zealand. When I am not F9ing my formulas, I cycle, cook or play lego with my kids. Know more about me.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Visit Excel for Beginner or Advanced Excel pages to learn more or join my online video class to master Excel.

Thank you and see you around.

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32 Responses to “More than 3 Conditional Formats in Excel”

  1. m&a in recessionary market says:


    Long time... whts up , I see that urs is the only business which is posting a "Excel" lent growth in this recessionary market....

    Still alive ... so you will be able to reach me if make an attempt... 🙂

  2. James says:

    V E R Y N I C E !!!!

  3. Lincoln says:

    Hi Chandoo.

    When I use your macro in my file, I keep getting a Compile Error because the "cell" variable is not defined.

    Any suggestions?

  4. Chandoo says:

    @Lincoln: Did you have "option explicit" on?

    I am sorry, I didn't define the cell variable.

    you can add this line to the code just below the line "dim i"
    dim cell

    Let me know if you still get this error...

  5. Lincoln says:

    Ah. I've simply declared cell as a range.
    All good now

    Noob at work.

    Thanks for the article. Very helpful. 🙂

  6. Paul says:

    very, very helpful. I didn't know what "define named ranges" meant. one of my colleagues figured it out. I suggest you add the instruction "go to menu - insert/name/define and then make sure the cells at the bottom of the box change to reflect new values if you redefine the range." thanks.

  7. Jahabar says:

    Quite Intresting. If anyone could help. I am trying to do something like this but i want to define values and colours of the value in a range of cells ( Similiar) but i want the other cells to change colour when the value is same as the range defined. ANy help. I want instantaneous( Like conditional formatting) not like running macro.

  8. Chandoo says:

    @Jahabar: Welcome to PHD and thanks for the comments.

    If your source range and target range have same dimensions and source range has 4 different formats (conditional formatting limitation, unless you are using excel 2007) you can do this. If you have more than 4 formats then you may have to use VBA (and create an event like worksheet_change and monitor the range).

    Let me know if you come across a simple non-vba solution for this. 🙂

  9. serdarb says:

    very nice post...

  10. Stružák says:

    May I suggest a little modification of the code?

    Adding "Application.ScreenUpdating = False" at the beggining of the macro and "Application.ScreenUpdating = True" at the end speeds up significantly the whole procedure. As well as omitting "Operation:=xlNone, SkipBlanks:=False, Transpose:=False".

    Not a big deal in this example, but when formatting a larger range of cells, the difference is marked. I've tried to format the number 1457 of cells and the formatting was done 11 seconds faster. :-O

  11. [...] you can overcome the conditional formatting limitation using VBA macros (again, if you are new to excel, you may want to wait few weeks before plunging in to [...]

  12. Hi Chandoo

    Thanks for this macro. I have done few changes to this macro to suit my needs. I had removed the defined names data2use and conditions2use to ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.Address

    This way I can select the cells that require conditional formatting and then run the macro.

    Kind Regards,

  13. asm says:

    Chandoo, I am using 2007. I noticed the conditional formatting options are different - and they have some built in funtictions for stop light displays, and other dashboard type elements. My question is this, I need to display more colors in the stop light than the standard 3. The World Health Org (WHO) has a Pandemic Flu alert level between 0-6, so i wanted to drive a sharepoint dashboard using excel based on 7 distinct levels. Suggestions?

    • Chandoo says:

      @ASM: very good idea. you can use font based symbols instead of excel traffic light icons to achieve this. the character "=" becomes a small circle when you change the font to "webdings". So you just need to insert a bunch of = signs and use conditional formatting to change the font color. If you need to combine numbers with symbols, then you can use 2 columns instead of one and format them accordingly. Let me know if you need some more help with this.

      Also, if possible, share with us your dashboard when it is ready.

  14. [...] Once we calculate values for all team members using the above formula, we can apply conditional formatting to make the heat map. In Excel 2007, this is one step. In earlier versions of excel, you need to specify 3 conditions to make the heatmap look hot enough or use a macro to get over the 3 conditional formats limitation. [...]

  15. Pitichat says:


    Why do you use the "conditions2use" since you can change the VBA and replace "conditions2use" with "data2use" and you won't have to create a zone for conditional formating equal to the data zone.

    The Data will be formated according the "formats2use". Just one thing, if you plan to have some "0" on your data zone, they will be formated like the first cell above your "formats2use" (the green cell with "Formats" inside in your exemple".
    That's why you should leave a white empty cell above the first cell of the "formats2use" zone.


  16. Justin B says:

    Seeing as no one has posted what they actually might use something like this for here's my 2cents;
    I used the same concepts to build a heatmap of a casino gaming floor, with each populated cell representing a gaming machine (Slot Machine), some simple metric bucketing to determine different shades for the cells, user selectable colours, ability to pick a 'machine' (click on a cell) and repaint the 'floor' showing only machines with similar charateristics, select a value range and repaint the 'floor' showing only the 'machines' within the value range. Users could switch between metrics and repaint the the floor.

    It took a while to put together, but once in use was rolled out to four casinos and used for 4 years. It provided a portable (i.e. no custom software), easy to understand way to manage product from individual machine to groups / classes of product and made it very easy to see how products were performing in geographic relation to each other (something that tables & graphs can't easily do)
    Needless to say it "wowed" many people who only saw Excel as a tool for managing numbers and table based reports
    Being excel just about any user could maintain spreadsheet.

  17. Paul Chapple says:

    @ Justin B - Hey Justin, that counds AWESOME! Can I get a copy of the casino tracker, I work within a similar industry and would love to see how you've constructed it.

    Also, from using this heatmap, I think I'm getting confused. To make the map change color, I thought you had to change the DATA2USE cells, but I see it only changes if you change the vales of thew cells within the CONDITIONS2USE cells. Am I thinking this wrong?????

    Thanks all, this is REALLY making my life easier!!

  18. Rajeev says:

    Hi Dude,

    Thanks for this very useful macro. That was very helpful.

    Kepp up the good work.


  19. Wagner says:

    Explanation like yours is so important to everyone that want to learn more and more in Excel. Thanks a lot. You are the man ! 🙂

  20. Lee says:


    If I wanted to replace the numbers 1-9 with text A-I, what would I need to do to the macro to make it work correctly?


    • Hui... says:

      If the numbers are alone and not part of larger numbers >10 or with text you can simply use this formula
      Change A1 to your cell
      Copy Down/Across as required
      Then select the new cells and copy/paste as Values over themselves.

  21. Cathy says:

    I'm trying to do a drop down list that will allow me to select a color and when I select that color it will change my cell to that color. i cannot use contion formating because I have 5 colors. Can you help me with this?

  22. Anurag says:

    This tool was great. Can you please suggest a way to include conditions like if value in a cell lies in a range color some other cell red.

  23. CCC says:

    What do I need to change in the programing if I have a mix of numbers and letters.  Example; 5003, 2B01, W005, 1020.  I think the problem is the CInt code but I'm not sure.

  24. Bob says:

    EXCELlent - was able to use your macro with no problems.  Found that modifying it to use the DATA2USE range achived the same result as using the condition2use range.  If the two ranges were equal, your way allows the data range to have completely different values and still have the same color format at the end. 
    My data is a little different
    I have an irregular shaped building with students in it.
    I have a list of students assigned to the rooms with the courses they are on
    and a color code for the courses
    would there be a way of using indirect to translate the student names to color code the rooms to what courses they are on?

  25. [...] hi Check below link More than 3 Conditional Formats in Microsoft Excel - How to? | - Learn Microsoft Excel O... [...]

  26. Graham Hartell says:

    The ability to conditional format a range of cells based on criteria in a different, but matching for size, range of cells is exactly what I've been looking for. Unfortunately the macro falls over at the line conditions (i) = CInt (cell.value). I have specified the 3 rangenames, working in excel 2003 but cannot get it to work. Any ideas. I've checked rangenames several times (0-16 being used) but no luck. Thanks

  27. Sebastian says:

    Hello you also can use this code to force ur worksheet to run with more then on condition.
    in this case the condition = case like in example if u want to format something between of the range 0 to 100 for a color
    Set I = Intersect(Target, Range("B2:B8")) <-- thatch the rage u want to work with just set it up for range of cell u want to use to format

    the second formula will show u Interior color nr index just time it and when u format the cell with a color it will show nr in the cell


    Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
    Set I = Intersect(Target, Range("B2:B8"))
    If Not I Is Nothing Then
    Select Case Target
    Case 0 To 100: NewColor = 37 ' light blue
    Case 101 To 200: NewColor = 46 ' orange
    Case 201 To 300: NewColor = 12 ' dark yellow
    Case 301 To 400: NewColor = 10 ' green
    Case 401 To 600: NewColor = 3 ' red
    Case 601 To 1000: NewColor = 20 ' lighter blue
    End Select
    Target.Interior.ColorIndex = NewColor
    End If
    End Sub

    Private Sub Worksheet_SelectionChange(ByVal Target As Range)
    Range("F1:F1") = Range("F1:F1").Interior.ColorIndex
    End Sub

  28. Tom says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    I tried to add the "More than 3 conditional formats for Excel" VBA macro
    to my Excel 2008 for Mac and it didn't work. Would this VBA macro work
    with Excel 2011 for Mac? Does it have to be a certain version: Student,
    Home & Office, or Standard?

    Thanks for your help.

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