When you use Google Sheets to track financials, you’ll likely run into numbers below zero. To make those negative numbers stand out, you can have them automatically appear in red, which is much clearer than a minus sign or parentheses.

You can accomplish this using one of two methods. There are some custom format options you can apply quickly. If you want more control, though, consider using setting up a conditional formatting rule.

Make Negative Numbers Red Using a Custom Format

Using a custom number format in Google Sheets, you can apply a red color to a selected range of cells. Only those numbers that are negative will appear in red.

Visit Google Sheets, sign in if necessary, and open your spreadsheet. Select the group of cells that contain or may contain negative numbers.

Selected range of cells

Go to the Format tab, move down to Number, and pick “Custom Number Format.”

Select Custom Number Format

In the window that appears, type “red” into the box at the top. You’ll then see a few number formats to choose from. You can select each one to view a preview of how it’ll display. These options place the negative numbers in parentheses with red font.

When you see the one you want, click “Apply.”

Negative number formats

Your selected cells then update to display the new format for negative numbers. If you change a value to a positive number, the custom format will adapt removing the parentheses and red font.

Selected cells formatted

RELATED: How to Change and Create Custom Number Format in Google Sheets

Make Negative Numbers Red Using Conditional Formatting

If you simply want to change the font for negative numbers to red without adjusting the format, you can use conditional formatting.

RELATED: How to Apply a Color Scale Based on Values in Google Sheets

Select the cell range, go to the Format tab, and pick “Conditional Formatting.” This opens the sidebar on the right for you to create your rule.

Select Conditional Formatting

Choose the Single Color tab at the top and confirm the selected cells in the Apply To Range box. You can also include an additional range of cells if you like.

Confirm the cell range

In the Format Rules section, open the Format Cells If drop-down box and select “Less Than.” In the box directly beneath, enter a zero.

Select Less Than and enter zero

In the Formatting Style area, open the Fill Color palette and choose “None.” Then, open the Text Color palette and pick a shade of red. Click “Done.”

Choose the red font

You’ll see your selected cells update to display negative numbers in red, while keeping the format you use to denote negative numbers intact.

Selected cells formatted

If you want to make negative numbers red in Google Sheets, these two easy ways let you set it up and then automatically turn them red when needed.

For additional ways to work with values in Google Sheets, look at how to multiply or divide numbers.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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