How-To Geek

Copy Excel Formatting the Easy Way with Format Painter

The Format Painter in Excel makes it easy to copy the formatting of a cell and apply it to another. With just a few clicks you can reproduce formatting such as fonts, alignment, text size, border, and background color.

On any Excel worksheet, click on the cell with the formatting you’d like to copy.  You will see dashed lines around the selected cell. Then select the Home tab and click on the Format Painter.


You’ll see your cursor now includes a paintbrush graphic. Move to the cell where you’d like to apply the formatting and click on it.


Your target cell will now have the new formatting.


If you double-clicking on Format Painter you can then click on multiple individual files to which to apply the format. Or, you can click and drag across a group of cells. When you are finished applying formats, click on Format Painter again, or on the Esc key, to turn it off.


The Format Painter is a very simple, but extremely useful and time saving tool when creating complex worksheets.

Andrew is a media center geek with some serious Windows skills. He's never far from a WiFi connection or a great cup of coffee.

  • Published 04/2/10

Comments (6)

  1. Santo

    I just love reading articles about Excel usage in HTG.

    I am looking forward more such excellent articles about using Excel effectively in HTG!!

  2. pthubbard

    I didn’t know about the double-click trick. You can also get to the format painter within the right-click context menu which should save you a click or two.

  3. John C

    Surely, the dashed lines are only shown AFTER you click Format Painter. When you first click a cell you just see the normal solid black lines around the active cell. If you then click the Format Painter the cell will indeed show dashed lines.

    Also, for those that are less familiar with Excel formatting, using this technique will copy ALL the formatting options from the source cell to the target cell(s) – not just the formats the affect the appearance of the cells.

    For example, if the source cell is a number field and the target cell is a date field the date will no longer show as a date – it will show as a number.

  4. james alcaraz

    1. ctrl+c the source format
    2. Select cells to be formatted.
    3. Paste special –> paste formats (or use keyboard context menu)

  5. aNui

    Ctrl+Shift+C to copy format and
    Ctrl+Shift+V to paste it

    does not work in Excel but Word and Powerpoint are doing good

  6. E

    I cannot get this procedure to work to change the size (Height) of a bunch of cells.
    I followed these procedures exactly. Nothing changed.

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