How to Alternate Row Colors in Excel Without Table: A Step-by-Step Guide

Alternating row colors in Excel can make your data easier to read and more visually appealing. You don’t need to create a table to do this – you can use Excel’s built-in Conditional Formatting feature. In just a few clicks, you’ll be able to apply different colors to alternating rows of your spreadsheet.

Step by Step Tutorial: Alternating Row Colors in Excel

Before we dive into the steps, let’s understand why we’re doing this. Applying different colors to alternating rows, or ‘zebra striping’, can reduce eye strain and help you or your audience focus on specific data. It’s a simple but effective way to improve the readability of your spreadsheet.

Step 1: Select the Range of Cells

Select the range of cells where you want to apply the alternating row colors.

When you select the cells, make sure you include all the rows and columns where you want the color change to be applied. If you only select a few cells, only those will get the alternate colors.

Step 2: Go to Conditional Formatting

On the Home tab, in the Styles group, click ‘Conditional Formatting’.

Conditional Formatting is a powerful tool in Excel that allows you to apply formats to a cell or range of cells based on certain criteria or conditions.

Step 3: Choose ‘New Rule’

From the Conditional Formatting dropdown menu, click ‘New Rule’.

This will open the New Formatting Rule dialog box where you can set up your custom formatting rules.

Step 4: Select ‘Use a formula to determine which cells to format’

In the New Formatting Rule dialog box, select ‘Use a formula to determine which cells to format’.

Using a formula for Conditional Formatting gives you the flexibility to apply formatting based on the contents or location of the cells.

Step 5: Enter the Formula

In the formula box, enter the formula: =MOD(ROW(),2)=0

This formula checks the row number of each cell and applies the format only to even-numbered rows.

Step 6: Set the Format

Click the ‘Format’ button and choose the color you want for the alternating rows, then click ‘OK’.

You can choose any color you want, but it’s best to choose a light color that doesn’t overpower the text in the cells.

Step 7: Apply the Formatting Rule

After setting the format, click ‘OK’ again to apply the new formatting rule to the selected cells.

Your selected range will now show alternating row colors, improving the readability of your spreadsheet.

After completing these steps, your Excel spreadsheet will have alternating row colors without the need for creating a table. The color scheme will be applied to the range of cells you selected, making it easier to navigate through large sets of data.

Tips for Alternating Row Colors in Excel

  • Ensure that your data does not have any blank rows, as this can interrupt the pattern of the alternating colors.
  • If you have headers in your data, it’s best to start the alternating color from the row below the header to maintain consistency.
  • To clear the formatting, just go back to Conditional Formatting and choose ‘Clear Rules from Selected Cells’.
  • You can use the same formula to apply alternating colors to columns by using the COLUMN function instead of ROW.
  • Remember that Conditional Formatting is dynamic – if you add or remove rows, the alternating colors will adjust automatically.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to apply alternating colors to more than one sheet?

You can apply the same formatting rule to multiple sheets by grouping the sheets before applying the Conditional Formatting.

Can I use this method for more than two colors?

Yes, you can use a similar formula with the MOD function to alternate between more than two colors.

Will the alternating colors print out on paper?

Yes, if you print your spreadsheet, the alternating row colors will appear on the printed page as they do on your screen.

Is there a limit to how many rows I can format this way?

No, there is no limit. You can apply this formatting to as many rows as you need.

Can I apply alternating colors to rows based on the value in a specific column?

Yes, you can modify the formula within Conditional Formatting to check for specific values and apply formatting accordingly.


  1. Select the range of cells
  2. Go to Conditional Formatting
  3. Choose ‘New Rule’
  4. Select ‘Use a formula to determine which cells to format’
  5. Enter the formula: =MOD(ROW(),2)=0
  6. Set the Format
  7. Apply the Formatting Rule


And there you have it—a quick and easy guide on how to alternate row colors in Excel without creating a table. By following the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be able to enhance the visual appeal and readability of your spreadsheets in no time. Whether you’re a student, teacher, business professional, or just someone who loves organizing data, this simple trick can make your Excel experience much more pleasant. So go ahead, give it a try and watch your data come to life with a splash of color. And remember, the key to mastering Excel is experimentation and practice, so don’t be afraid to explore other Conditional Formatting options to make your spreadsheets even more efficient and effective.

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