Looking for the keyboard shortcuts to apply font and fill colors to a cell? Unfortunately, there aren't any built-in to Excel, but this article explains some workarounds and an easy way to customize your own.

This article explains all the possible ways to apply font or fill (background or shading) colors using keyboard shortcuts, including a way to customize your own.

I have done extensive research on this issue, and this article is a collection of all the solutions you will find on the web.  So this should save you some time in your search for an answer.

Excel Font Fill Color Keyboard Shortcut Keys

The shortcuts presented here are for Excel for Windows versions 2007, 2010, & 2013.

Do you want the Good News or Bad News First?

Well, I'll give you the bad news first to get it out of the way…  There is no keyboard shortcut in Excel that directly applies a font or fill color to a cell.  Sorry I have to be the one to tell you that.

But the good news is that there are a few workarounds that will get you close.  And the better news is that I have developed a simple (free) solution that will allow you to easily customize your own keyboard shortcuts for font and fill colors.

Overview of the Font Fill Color Shortcut Solutions

In the first part of this article I will explain all the built-in keyboard shortcuts that will help you apply font and fill colors.  Since there is no direct way, I consider these to be workaround solutions (#1-#4 below).  Even though these workarounds won't directly solve your problem, there are some great tricks to learn here to help save you time.

The ultimate goal of using a keyboard shortcut is to save time.  Especially for repetitive tasks when you need to quickly apply the same colors over and over again.  None of the workaround methods really accomplish this, so I created an Excel add-in that will allow you to customize your own shortcuts.  The add-in is explained in #5 below with a link to the download page.

Here is an outline of the article:

  1. Open the Color Palette Menus with Alt+H+ (workaround)
  2. Quick Access Toolbar (workaround)
  3. F4 Key or Alt+Enter (workaround)
  4. Copy/Paste Formatting (workaround)
  5. Keyboard Shortcuts Add-in (custom solution)

Step-by-step instructions and the pros & cons of each of these methods are provided below.

#1 Open the Color Palette Menus with Alt+H+

The keyboard shortcut to open the Fill Color menu on the ribbon is Alt+H+H.  This will open the menu so you can view the color palette, but you have to take additional steps to select and apply the color.  Here is a quick guide:

  1. With the cells selected, press Alt+H+H
  2. Use the arrow keys on the keyboard to select the color you want.  The arrow keys will move a small orange box around the selected color.
  3. Press the Enter key to apply the fill color to the selected cells.

Excel Fill Color Keyboard Shortcut Alt+H+H

Alt+H+F+C is the shortcut for the Font Color menu and functions the exact same as the Fill Color menu.


  • You can select a color from the menu using only the keyboard.
  • Any color on the color palette can be applied relatively quickly.
  • There is a direct shortcut for “No Fill” – Alt+H+H+N


  • This method is SLOW.  It's really a three step process, and even more time consuming if your color is at the bottom right side of the color palette.
  • There is a lot more room for error because you are required to press the arrow keys multiple times.
  • Font colors are even harder to apply because the shortcut (Alt+H+F+C) contains an additional letter.

#2 Quick Access Toolbar (QAT)

The Fill Color and Font Color menus can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).  This will help make the keyboard shortcut to access them shorter.  Instead of pressing Alt+H+H, you could put the Fill Color menu in position #1 of the QAT and use the shortcut Alt+1 to open the Fill Color menu.  See my articles on how to setup the Quick Access Toolbar  and how to use the QAT's keyboard shortcuts for instructions on this.

Excel Fill Color Keyboard Shortcut Quick Access Toolbar QAT

Once the menu is open you still have to use the arrow keys to select your color.  It's basically the same three step process as above.


  • This is faster than the Alt+H+H(FC) methods because you can eliminate at least one key stroke.
  • If you are using the Font or Fill Color palettes frequently it might be nice to have them on the QAT.  This way you can access the menus with the mouse without having to navigate to the Home tab on the ribbon.


  • It's still slow and requires you to use the arrow keys to select your color.


#3 F4 Key or Alt+Enter

The F4 key is a great keyboard shortcut to know and can save you time.  The F4 key will repeat the last action you've taken in Excel.

For example, let's say you just used the Fill Color menu to change a cell to have a blue background.  When you select another cell and press the F4 key, the cell's fill color will be changed to blue.  The F4 key just repeats the last action you took.

 Excel F4 Key Repeat Last Action for Font Fill Color Shortcut

This applies to many different types of actions, not just font and fill colors.  You can use F4 to add/delete rows/columns, change number formats, alignment, page setup, etc.  The F4 key can be a real time saver any time you are doing a repetitive task.  Checkout my free eBook, “Excel Formula Tricks” for a few additional tips on using the F4 Key.


  • The F4 key can be a one-step solution to applying font and fill colors.
  • It has many other uses and is great to know.


  • It requires you to use another method for the first time a font or fill color is applied, and only allows you to repeat that process.
  • Can only be used to repeat the last action.  If you take a different action between needing the color shortcut then this will not work.

Dominykas left a comment below about the Alt+Enter shortcut.  Alt+Enter works in the same basic way as F4.  Thanks for sharing Dominykas!

#4 Copy/Paste Formatting

The copy and paste formatting feature can be used if you have already applied the font/fill color to another cell.  Similar to the F4 method mentioned above, you can quickly copy the colored cell and apply the formatting only to other cells.

A keyboard shortcut for Paste Formatting can be created by adding the button to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).  This makes it very fast to copy the cell that contains the color and then only paste the formatting of that cell.  The values or formulas in the copied cell will NOT be pasted.  Only the formatting is pasted.

Excel Fill Color Keyboard Shortcut Paste Formatting QAT

Again, checkout my articles on how to setup the Quick Access Toolbar  and how to use the QAT's keyboard shortcuts for instructions on this.


  • Probably the quickest way to copy formatting that is already applied to another cell.
  • Better alternative to the Format Painter because you can use the arrow keys to move more than one cell from the copied cell before pasting the formatting.


  • Not a direct method for applying a font/fill color.  A cell must already contain the formatting you want to copy.
  • Does NOT work if the copied cell and destination cell have different number formatting.  The Paste Formats feature pastes all the formatting options that are applied to a cell.  For example, if the cell you copy contains a number formatted as a percentage (%) and the destination cell you want to color contains a number formatted as currency ($), then paste formats will change the formatting of the destination cell to percentage.  This is not what you want.

#5 Formatting Shortcuts Add-in

The four solutions listed above are the best workarounds that I've found, and hopefully they will help you learn some new Excel skills if nothing else.  But they do not directly solve the problem, which is to have a fast way to apply a font or fill colors with one single keyboard shortcut.

So I developed this add-in that allows you to create custom keyboard shortcuts for font and fill colors.  It basically allows you to choose your own shortcut key that will apply a specific font or fill color to the selected cell(s).

Formatting Shortcuts Lite Ribbon Button Userform

The shortcut key is a combination of Ctrl+Shift+[any key on the keyboard].

You can change the shortcut key to any character on the keyboard.  The screenshot above shows the setup menu for the shortcut keys.  You can see that I have setup the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+A for the font color of red.  When I press Ctrl+Shift+A on the keyboard the font color of the selected cells will change to red.   It's a one-step process that is really fast!

The shortcuts are saved so you only need to set it up once, and they can be changed at any time.

You can also choose if you want the font or fill color to be changed in the Format Type drop-down menu.  The “Font+Fill” option allows you to change both the font and fill color of the cell with one keyboard shortcut!  In the example above, Ctrl+Shift+D will change the font and fill color of the cell to light green fill with dark green font.


  • Create custom keyboard shortcuts to apply font or fill colors to selected cells in one step.
  • The add-in is very easy to use, and there is a free version available!
  • This is the fastest way to apply font and fill colors to a cell.
  • Undo your changes if you accidentally press the wrong shortcut key.
  • Does NOT change the number formatting like the paste formatting solution.


  • Requires the use of an add-in.  The add-in is easy to install and setup, but it is not built into Excel.
  • Limited to one undo, but the full version of the add-in resolves this issue.
  • Limited to three keyboard shortcuts on the free version.  The full version gives you 10 shortcuts plus a lot of other features including number formats.


Please visit the Formatting Shorctuts Add-in page to learn more and download the add-in.   Installation instructions and a user guide are also included, the add-in is very easy to use.


Unfortunately there are no direct keyboard shortcuts for font & fill colors.  Hopefully you learned some new tricks with the workaround solutions (#1-#4) that you can apply to other areas of your work.  If nothing else, at least it will save you time from doing the web searches and research I did before building the custom add-in.

Did I miss anything?  Do you know of any other ways to apply font & fill colors?  Please leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions.  I would love to hear from you.


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  • If I understood you correctly, you said that a shortcoming of the format painter was that you couldn’t move more than one cell away from the cell you were copying. In my experience after left clicking the format painter you can navigate to any other cell and left click it to apply the formatting. Also, if you double click the format painter, you can move around and apply the formatting to multiple cells until you click on it again to turn it off.

    • Hi Jack,
      Sorry, I was referring to activating the Format Painter with a keyboard shortcut. When the Format Painter is activated with a keyboard shortcut, and you press an arrow button, the adjacent cell will be formatted. However, at this point the Format Painter is also disabled.

      You could double-click the format painter, then press the arrow keys multiple times. However, it might make sense to just use the mouse at that point.

      I hope that is clear. Thanks again! 🙂

  • I have a class assignment requesting field to be colored with a color titled Aqua, Accent 5, Light 80%.

    I’ve photos of color titles that appear with a cursor hover in previous versions of Excel. Is this a feature I can turn on.

  • Thanks for the great article. The F4 Repeat Last Action command and adding the Fill Color menu to the QAT are both going to save me lots of time – appreciate it very much!

  • hello sir,

    sir i want one short cut key for ….
    if we given colour to one cell then other place i have give same colour for that other cell.
    please give me short cut

  • HI,

    Would like to know.

    How to select the cells and colour it automatically based on the input in the last cell.

    For ex-

    1st one ——>if A1= 2 Select B1 and Select C1 and highlight in yellow colour and

    2nd on——-> if A1=3 Select B1, Select C1 and E1 and highlight in green colour

  • Hi sir,

    Is there a shortcut that makes it so easier?

    Like using ALT+H+H+any letters that fit every colors.

    Its a hard time using the arrow keys in choosing the color you want. My finger tip hurts you know that!

    Thanks and best regards!

  • Thanks for the great tips on cell formatting!

    I would like to be able to really quickly apply cell coloring (and/ or other formatting). I downloaded the Formatting Shortcut Addin lite version and it works great. A big disadvantage however is that you have to simultaneously press shift and control. This means putting my pinky on the crtl, ringfinger on the shift key and then trying to work the A,S,D keys with my other fingers. This becomes tiresome after a while. Is there a way that you could somehow activate a cell formatting mode (e.g. by clicking a toggle button) which enables you to directly apply the formatting on pressing the A,S or D key? When you are done formatting you toggle back to “normal mode”. Thanks on any suggestions.

  • Hi,
    Is there a way to just keep all standard colors on quaick access toolbar or on ribbon? I use four five colors to fill in cells and every time i have to select from dropdown.


    • Hi Imran,
      Not that I know of. You can add the whole fill menu to the QAT. Or you could setup individual macros for each fill color, and assign it to a button. The macros are going to clear the undo history though.

  • I, and many other people, are looking for a way to change/set the default highlight color to something other than yellow.

    I was thinking of creating Workbook_open() macro.

    I tried recording a macro when I changed the highlight color. Running the macro subsequently works to set that selected “highlight” in cells. BUT, it does now work to change the highlight color selected in the highlight tool.

    Sub ahighlihgt()

    ‘ ahighlihgt Macro

    With Selection.Interior
    .Pattern = xlSolid
    .PatternColorIndex = xlAutomatic
    .Color = 5296274
    .TintAndShade = 0
    .PatternTintAndShade = 0
    End With
    End Sub

    is there a command that affects the highlight color on the ribbon?

    • Hi Ron,
      Not that I know of. You might be able to use the SendKeys method to press the keyboard combination that would get you there. Alt, H, H, Down Arrow, etc., etc. Enter. SendKeys can be unreliable though, especially on a workbook open event. I hope that helps. Let me know if you come up with anything else. Thanks!

  • Hi jon,

    I just want to combine about 100 sheets into a single sheet. Is there is any option for doing the same? It consumes a lot of time for copy pasting the same. Can you please help me to resolve the issue?

  • Hi Jon,

    I just want to replace some Zeros from a Row. By doing the same by Find & Replace the zero which are included with 10, 20 30 etc are also be replaced. Is there is shortcut to change Zero’s Without changing 10, 20 etc.?

    • Hi Liju,

      On the find and replace menu, press the Options >> button. Then check the box that says: Match entire cell contents

      This will only replace the zero if the cell contains a zero, and not a 10, 20, etc.

      I hope that helps. Thanks!

  • Hi Jon,

    I just want to give a color for different sheets in an Excel. Is there are any shortcut keys for doing the same?

  • hi jon,
    i have a small doubt, i enter the value in row 1 to 10,then i hide the row 3,4,5,6. now i select row 1,2,7,8,9 and 10, now i fill the background color,then i will remove cells unhide,now cells 3,4,5,6 are have background color, my question is how to fill background color in all visible cells at a time except hidden cells?

    • Unfortunately there are no shortcut keys on the color palette menu, besides the ones you see when pressing the Alt key shortcut. My Formatting Shortcuts Add-in allows you to set this up.

  • HI everyone… can anybody tell me that can I select the color without using the aero keys? I mean after (alt+H+H) can I select the color for example yellow, without using the aero keys and mouse?


    • There is no direct way to do it. The options in this article are some workarounds. I also have a free add-in that allows you to create a custom keyboard shortcut for it. It’s called the Formatting Shortcuts Add-in (#5 on this page). Thanks!

  • Thanks for this – it was very helpful to get this quick overview of the keyboard shortcuts.

    I ended up solving my particular problem (wanting to do automated one-press formatting of only the SELECTED text inside a cell – meaning I can’t use macros) by taking this information and building an AutoHotKey script to do a mix of fake keystrokes and some fake mouse-clicks. (And even a little bit of reading pixel-colours, to detect if the Bold and Italic button were toggled On or Off.)

    • Hey Matt,

      I’m having the same problem! But so far I’m unable to automate the change formatting process for only selected text. I’m trying to write an AutoHotKey script that works but to no avail (pretty new to this world but very tired of this Excel shortcoming.) Can you please share your AutoHotKey script?? Thanks!

  • Excellent article Jon! After copying a cell, paste it to another cell using the ‘right click key’ which resides between the alt and ctrl keys alongwith ‘V’ – this will paste the formatting.

    So just ctrl + C and then ‘Right click key’ + V

  • my shortcuts through the add in are not saving. I still have the add in available but I need to reset them every time I open excel. Please advise.


    • Hi Stephanie,
      That could happen if you are opening multiple instances of Excel. The add-in saves the shortcuts in the add-in file. This is something I need to change.
      To get around this, completely close Excel, open it once, make the changes to the shortcuts, then completely close Excel again. Next time you open Excel the changes should be there. Let me know if it still doesn’t work. Thanks!

  • this is very helpful as i use fill color most of the time at work! however the msoffice given to me at work is MS1997, will this work? thank you

    • Hi Jobi,
      Office 97??? That’s some old software. 🙂 I’m not sure if any of these shortcuts will work in 97. The F4 shortcut might work. You might also be able to find the fill color menu through an Alt shortcut, but I’m not sure what that would be. Sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance.

  • Hi Jon,

    I have a few points to make regarding the article.
    Being a keen excel enthusiast I know how frustrating it is not knowing the appropriate shortcut, if one exists at all eh ; ) So when attempting a mass fill task and finding myself stumped for a quick duck (it’s ashes summer Jon) I ended up stumbling across this nifty page on excel campus.

    I particularly found the F4 ‘allocation’ short cut an excellent addition to ones excel armoury, and therefore believe this should occupy the #1 spot on your list of shortcuts, saving the user a couple of ever important minutes they would otherwise be using reading your irrelevant solutions stated previously.

    The ‘Colour Palette Alt… whatever it was’ can barely be described as a short cut and the second option states a mere one key stroke elimination as its most welcome benefit. The 4th option is the most basic computer skill in the book so is hardly an unknown innovation. The 5th option also appeared to have potential but due to me unfortunately not having the nifty plug-in installed I was not able to assess that ones utility.

    A thing to note for a potential follow up article would be to consider a potential super short cut merger would be coupling your F4 shortcut with the very powerful Shift+Arrow Keys navigation tool to quickly highlight the required cells whilst never altrering your tunnel vision. Ive done some moderate research with some fellow Microsoft Office chaps and we have found this innovation to decrease completion time of ‘Mask Fill Tasks’ by eliminating use of the mouse and other key strokes completely.

    Regards and look forward to hearing your response,
    Dr Ben George
    Cpt. 1st Marines Excel Divison
    Phd, M.D., BSC Hons

  • It’s very helpful. My request is that teach us the shortcut key for text colouring/uncolouring on excel.

    Thanking you from bottom of my heart for your effort.

    Hope to receive your continuous contributions.

  • Hi,

    for some reasons nobody has mentioned combination “Atl + Enter”. It fills the cell with last used fill color 🙂

  • Hi Jon,
    Nice work. Very helpful.
    Have a question. Is there any way to apply these shortcuts through Microsoft Excel built-in functions like IF, IFERROR, etc.?
    Thanks in advance.
    Khalid Javaid

    • Hi Khalid,
      I’m not sure I fully understand your question. Do you want to color a cell based on the result of a function? If so, you will want to use Conditional Formatting. Let me know if that is what you mean. Thanks for the comment!

  • Hi,

    Thanks for sharing the info. But i’d suggest simply create a new macro for it.
    1) Click on ‘record a new macro’
    2) Select the shortcut you want in the pop-up window. ie: ‘Ctrl’ by default and ‘input any letter’
    3) Select any cell on excel, highlight it by the fill color you want.
    4) Without clicking on anything else after it, click on ‘END MACRO’
    5) Next try it out, select any amount of cells you want to fill color & press the short cut key for the macro: ctrl + ‘key you had seleted’

    • Hi Rohan,

      Yes you could definitely do that. The advantage of the add-in is that you can quickly change the shortcut keys and font & fill colors without having to know or modify any code. And it’s free. 🙂


  • Great one Man, The Alt+H+H accompanied by F4 helped me a lot in my current working. I am an Inventory Manager have to seek and color faulted inventory items all the time in excel and this proved of great HELP. Really Thanks Man for sharing such stuff.

    But I guess i wouldn’t bother to load my Excel with ad-ins, they are kind a risky. I haven’t had a good experience with any add-in so far.

      • Yes similar ones created havoc in my excel causing my saved work book a great damage. It got corrupted and I had to do all the work again.

        • I can’t imagine a well-built Excel add-in would cause such issues; I’d be interested in knowing which ones you’ve used. Third party COM and .Net add-ins that handle things like document management and PDF printing though are prone to such problems.

    • Thank you Muhammad! I am happy to hear this helped save you some time. I am also sorry to hear that you have not had good experiences with add-ins. There is a free version of the Formatting Shortcuts Add-in available. This is an add-in that I personally developed, and you can contact me directly with any questions.

      Thanks again!
      Jon A.

  • I am in the process of figuring out the pros and cons of changing from Windows to Mac. So far a lot of my added software are compatible so I considering the switch. A large part of my consideration has to do with Mac being compatible with MS Word, Excel, Outlook. In this article you wrote, you indicated these shortcuts are for Windows. Are these shortcuts also available for Mac or are you still in the throws of creating it?


    • Wanda –

      Better consider very carefully your switch to Mac. Microsoft Office has a different notion of compatibility than most of us do. Shortcuts are different, the interface is very different. many things don’t work the same.

      A lot of people use Mac Office, and they’re fine with it. But if you are used to Windows Office, the switch may just make you crazy.

    • Hi Wanda,
      Unfortunately, most of these keyboard shortcuts are not available on the Mac version.

      However, the Mac version does allow you to create your own customized keyboard shortcuts.

      1. On the Tools menu, choose the “Customize Keyboard…” option.
      2. In the Categories list on the left side choose “Format”.
      3. In the list on the right side choose either “Font Color” or “Fill Color”.
      4. Then create a keyboard shortcut using the Press new shortcut key box.

      Once this is setup, pressing the shortcut key will apply the font or fill color that is currently selected in the Home tab of the Ribbon. This means you can only use this keyboard shortcut to apply the color that was used last. You cannot really assign a shortcut key to a specific color.

      I will update this post with a few screenshots. Let me know if you have any questions in the mean time.

      In regards to the transition to Mac, I agree with Jon Peltier. There are definitely differences between the Windows and Mac versions, and it is probably best to try the Mac version before you make the jump. You can also run Windows on your Mac through Boot Camp (or similar software), and then install Office on Windows so you can run the Windows version of Excel. If you are a heavy keyboard user, then you might find this option frustrating at times because you will still be using a Mac keyboard with Windows Excel. It’s not straightforward.

      Thanks for your question!
      Jon A.

  • I just googled how to fill a cell b/c I kept using the right click and it was just getting on my nerves. Came upon your site. Easy to understand and I see a lot of info I’m sure to use! Thank you!!

  • I really appreciate the F4 shortcut. At work I used formulas and colors for certain projects is the current work load!! It really helps me expedite functions!

  • No offense, but I hate any suggestion that includes putting a button on the QAT. That just underscores the damage done to the interface in Office 2007, and they tried to mollify the upset masses with the QAT. “Here’s where you can put any buttons that we’ve lost for you.”

    For years I refused to put anything onto the QAT, but in my old age I’ve relented, but all I’ve added is Save As, Select Windows, and Select Objects.

    Fortunately I still remember a lot of the old Excel 97-2003 alt key shortcuts. Paste Special Formats is Alt-E-S-T.

    • I completely understand your frustrations Jon. The new ribbon and QAT were a gigantic change in 2007. I have grown so accustomed to the new ribbon, that it’s hard for me to argue in favor of the old 2003 menu style. That’s not to say I like the new one better, I have just forgotten about the old one.

      I still use plenty of shortcuts from 2003 too. Alt+T+U+T and Alt+T+U+D for trace precedents and dependents are two old shortcuts that I still use. The shortcuts for those in 2007+ are actually one letter shorter (Alt+M+P & Alt+M+D), but the old shortcuts are ingrained in me.

      The QAT has definitely grown on me and I now rely on it for a few of my most used shortcuts. I put the Paste Values button in position #1 of the QAT and use Alt+1 to paste values. It is the fastest way I’ve found to paste values.

      There are now 7 years worth of new users that never experienced the old 2003 interface. But I wonder how many of those users are using old shortcuts that they have learned along the way?

      Anyways, thanks for your input. I have noted that “Jon will be skipping any content related to the QAT” for future blog posts. 🙂

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