Excel Stylesheets: Cell Styles and Smart Art, Drawing, Graphics, Picture and Chart Tools

You may have used Excel for years without delving into Styles (or stylesheets), but they can make work easier and faster.

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Rob Schultz

You may have used Excel for years without delving into Styles (or stylesheets), but they can make work easier and faster—and more visually appealing. In this feature, we’re going to go over Cell Styles, and Smart Art, Drawing, Graphics, Picture, and Chart Tools. (We’re skipping 3D Model Tools for now because they don’t have Styles.)

Cell Styles

If you type a sentence in Excel, most of us just format the sentence using the features in the Font, Alignment, or Number groups, which include additional features such as colors, borders, orientation, and more. Or we might right-click for the popup/context menu and choose the features from there.

02 sample text stylesheet in excel JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Sample text Stylesheet in Excel

However, you can also select the group called Styles > Cell Styles, and choose preset styles with custom fonts, colors, and attributes, as well as borders, shading, and paragraph levels such as Heading 1, Heading 2, Title, and more. Play around to learn more about your choices. 

The best way to explain how Graphic Styles work in Excel is to just create some.

Smart Art Tools & Styles

Smart Art Graphics are Excel’s premade business graphics. A partial list of the graphics includes:

  • Block Lists
  • Process Arrows and Diagrams
  • Organizational Charts
  • Radial Cycles
  • Segmented Pyramids
  • Picture Grids
  • Image Captions
  • Interconnected Rings
  • ...and 200 plus more.

1. Open Excel. From the Insert tab > Illustrations group, click the Smart Art Graphic icon (between Shapes and Store on the Ribbon menu).

2. Browse through the list and select a Smart Art Graphic for this exercise. We chose Process > Step Down Process, then clicked OK.

03 select a smart art graphic JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Select a Smart Art graphic

3. Excel drops the graphic in the center of the page showing the selection handles/circles, which means the graphic is active. When a graphic is active, Excel displays a new tab on the Ribbon menu called [something] Tools > Design/Format where the “something” is determined by the selected graphic, such as Smart Art Tools, Drawing Tools, Chart Tools, Graphics Tools, and Picture Tools. If you de-select (or click outside) the graphic, these menu items disappear.

4. The Smart Art Tools > Design menu includes the following groups: Create Graphic, Layouts, Change Colors, Smart Art Styles, and Reset. From here, you can select a different Layout, a different Smart Art Style, or Change Colors.

5. Under the Smart Art Tools > Format menu, you can edit the Shapes in 2D (for easy editing); alter the Shape Styles; change the shape, color, outline, or Effects; change the WordArt Style; alter the arrangement or alignment of the graphics; and alter the size.

NOTE: Notice that the text inside a text box can use the popup/context menu, the Ribbon menu, or the preset Styles menus from the Drawing Tools > Format menus tab. The text inside an illustration or picture (such as a Graphic, Chart, Drawing, Smart Art, Word Art) uses the corresponding Tools > Design / Tools > Format menus.

04 smart art tools designformat plus drawing tools format JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Smart Art Tools—Design-Format plus Drawing Tools Format

6. Select the Step Down Process graphic.

7. Under the new Smart Art Tools tab, choose Design > Smart Art Styles.

8. Select a Style from the menu box or click the small expansion arrow (bottom right of menu box), and choose a Style from the expanded icon list.

9. Next, click the Change Colors button (from the Smart Art group) and select a group of colors from the color themes in the menu window.

05 select a style and colors for the smart art graphic JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Select a Style and Colors for the Smart Art graphic

10. With the graphic still selected, choose Smart Art Tools > Format, and another menu of Styles and formatting features appears. Select Shape Effects to add a Shadow, Reflection, Glow, Soft Edges, Bevel Style or 3D Rotation.

NOTE: Notice that Shape Fill and Shape Outline change the background color of the graphic box or adds a border around the graphic box, not the graphics inside the box, unless you select the graphics inside the box separately or use Ctrl+ Left Click (Ctrl+ Select) to select multiple graphics inside the box. For example, you might select both arrows and make them the same color.

06 select shape effects for shadow reflection glow soft edges bevel style3d rotation JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Select Shape Effects for Shadow, Reflection, Glow, Soft Edges, Bevel Styles + 3D- Rotation

Drawing Tools & Styles

1. From the Insert tab > Text group (far right side of Ribbon menu), select the WordArt button (the right-tilting letter ‘A’).

2. Choose a text design, and a text box opens that says: Your Text Here. Enter some text (we entered the words Excel Styles).

3. Notice that the new tab says Drawing Tools > Format. Select WordArt Styles > Text Effects > Transform. As you move your cursor down the menu list, the selected text changes so you can see and decide which text effect you prefer; follow Path or Warp.

4. For the second graphic on this Excel screen, choose a Shape from Insert > Shapes. Select a gradient from Drawing Tools > Format > Shape Fill and a border or outline from Drawing Tools > Format > Shape Outline. Insert some WordArt in the center of the banner, then add a color, gradient, or pattern and outline from the same menu.

Keep reading to learn about Graphics Tools, Picture Tools, and Chart Tools

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