Excel Stylesheets: Cell Styles and Smart Art, Drawing, Graphics, Picture and Chart Tools Credit: Rob SchultzIDG
Business Management

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—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

07 insert word art then choose text effects transform to bend warp your text JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Insert Word Art then choose Text Effects-Transform to-bend/warp your text

Graphics Tools & Styles

The “graphics” in Excel refer to the icons accessed through Insert > Icons, which takes you to a sizable library of miniature shadow images (similar to the fancy symbols and bullets in the Symbols library). The difference here is that one is a graphic (icons) and the other is a font (symbols).

Once upon a time, fonts and graphics were not interchangeable. Now, finally, you can covert a symbol to an icon or a graphic or a picture using a third-party program such as Illustrator, Photoshop, or a paint program, then copy and paste the converted symbol into Excel. Excel hasn’t quite made that leap yet but, in some new future version, I am certain that feature will be added.

NOTE: You can create custom bullets using symbols, fonts, and pictures in MS Word, then copy and paste them into Excel as “pictures,” which can then access all the graphic/picture features. Note that some fonts work and some do not. See the next section on Picture Tools for instructions about this process.

1. For example, in MS Word, select Home > Paragraph, then click the Bullets button expansion arrow (top left in the Paragraph group) > Define New Bullet. When the New Bullet window appears, choose Symbol, Picture, or Font to create your custom bullets. Note that not all fonts work.

2. First, click the Picture button and choose an image from Bing search or from a file on one of your drives. After it drops into your document, select a symbol, and then a font. Highlight all three and change the size to 100 points (or so), then Copy and Paste into Excel.

3. Once in Excel—if the bullet picture has handles—you can edit it, change colors, format it, and apply Artistic Effects like you can with any other graphic or picture.

4. Next, let’s try some icons. Select Insert > Icons (from the Illustrations group) and browse through the images or select a category on the left to narrow your search.

5. Choose an icon you like or need for your project, then click the Insert button. Excel drops the icon onto your spreadsheet with the sizing handles active. Click one of the handles and drag down and over to make the icon larger.

6. Again, notice that the Ribbon menu displays a new tab called Graphic Tools > Format. With your icon still selected, choose a Graphic Style or the Fill, Outline, and/or Effects (such as shadow, bevel, glow, etc.) buttons to “decorate” your icons. You can also resize it from this menu plus Rotate, Crop, Group, etc.

08 insert an icon format with the graphics tools JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Insert an Icon format with the Graphics Tools

You can also convert your icons (which are graphics) into Shapes so you can break them apart and edit the “ungrouped” pieces.

7. Insert another Icon from the Icons library.

8. With it still selected, choose Graphic Tools > Format > Convert to Shape (from the Change group, far left side of Ribbon menu).

9. In the popup dialog that says: … Imported PictureDo you want to convert to a Microsoft Drawing Object? Click Yes.

10. Notice that the Graphic Tools tab now says Drawing Tools. Also notice that some of the pieces in the graphic now have separate sizing/selection handles. In my fishbowl, the fish is now a separate graphic. I can move it, copy and paste it somewhere else, change the Colors (Gradients or Patterns) and Outline separately from the fish bowl.

NOTE: If some of the items fail to “separate” during the conversion process, ensure that the graphic is still selected, then choose Drawing Tools > Format > Group > Ungroup (from the Arrange section).

09 convert icons to shapes you can edit JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Convert Icons to Shapes you can edit

Picture Tools & Styles

1. For Pictures, choose Insert > Pictures (from one of your drives), navigate to the correct folder, select the image, and click the Insert button. Or, choose Insert > Online Pictures and enter a keyword/search term in the Bing search box. Press Enter or click the magnifying glass. Browse through the options, select an appropriate image for your project, then click the Insert button.

2. Excel drops the picture onto your spreadsheet. The Picture Tools/Format tab and a menu appears with all the cool features you can use to enhance your pictures, such as Picture Styles; Adjustments for Brightness/Contract and Sharpen/Soften Corrections; Color, Saturation, and Tone adjustments; Artistic Effects; Remove Backgrounds; and Compress, Change, or Reset Picture.

NOTE: And here is where Excel really excels in the graphics arena! In the early years, Microsoft’s graphics were horrendous. Everything was low-resolution and there were no effects or color corrections, or styles. Now, Excel rivals some of the best graphic programs out there in features and effects. It still has its limitations but, wow, what a difference.

3. To sharpen or soften the image or adjust the brightness/contrast, select the image first. From the Picture Tools/Format tab, click Format (for the menu), then choose Corrections from the Adjust group. Excel displays a drop-down menu with five Sharpen/Soften options and 25 Brightness/Contrast options. Browse through the list and choose one that works for you.

10 picture tools format picture styles corrections JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Picture Tools-Format-Picture Styles-Corrections

4. Next, choose Picture Tools/Format tab > Colors from the Adjust group. Excel displays another drop-down menu with seven options for Color Saturation, seven Color Tone options, and 21 options to Recolor (or change the images colors). Sharpen/Soften options and 25 Brightness/Contrast options. Browse through the list and choose one that works for you.

5. For Artistic Effects, choose Picture Tools/Format tab > Artistic Effects from the Adjust group. Notice the 23 effects displayed in the drop-down menu: Marker, Pencil Grayscale, Pencil Sketch, Line Drawing, Chalk Sketch, Paint Strokes, Paint Brush, Glow Diffused, Blur, Light Screen, Watercolor Sponge, Film Grain, Mosaic Bubbles, Glass, Cement, Texturizer, Crisscross Etching, Pastels Smooth, Plastic Wrap, Cutout, Photocopy, and Glow Edges. These are the same effects offered Word, PowerPoint, and most all graphics and photo editing software programs including Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Corel Draw, Corel Paint, and dozens of others.

6. We selected Cement for the first graphic and Line Drawing (in color) for the second image. If you select the Artistic Effect menu item at the bottom of this list, the Artistic Effects feature options appear at the bottom of the Picture Format panel with addition options for these effects.

11 picture tools format colors artistic effects JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Picture Tools Format: Colors and Artistic Effects

7. Insert another picture, then choose Picture Tools/Format tab > Picture Styles group > Picture Border button. For Color or Border options choose Weight > More Lines, and the Format Picture panel opens on the right. Choose a Line (Solid or Gradient), Line Color, Line Design, (Compound and/or Dash), Cap Type (Square, Round, Flat), and/or Join Type (Round, Bevel, Miter). Try them all and see which ones you prefer.

8. For Picture Effects—not the same as Picture Styles or Artistic Effects; however, you can use both in combination with Picture Effects, which include Presets (a sampling of all), Shadow, Reflection, Glow, Soft Edges, Bevel, and 3D Rotation.

9. Copy your picture two more times. For the first one, choose Picture Tools/Format tab > Picture Styles group > Picture Effects button. Choose a Bevel design from the Bevel menu: I chose Divot.

10. Select the second copied image and, from the same menu, click 3D. The drop-down menu provides five options: No Rotation, Parallel, Perspective, Oblique, or 3D. Notice that the same options appear under the Presets button on the Format Picture pane. But also notice the X, Y, and Z Rotation buttons, the Perspective button, and the Distance from Ground feature. Use these buttons to completely customize the rotation of your picture.

11. The rest of the Picture Effects are self-explanatory, so play with them and see what happens.

12 picture stylesborderslines colors effects bevel3d JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Picture Styles—Borders + lines, Colors, Effects, bevel, +3D

Chart Tools & Styles

Once again, the chart must be selected for the Chart Tools tab to appear. Notice this one has two sub-tabs: Design and Format. And, to see the complete Format menu, you must also select some text inside the chart graphic.

1. Select the Chart graphic, then also select the Title. (Ctrl+ click does not work; just click the Title once and both items are selected.)

2. The Chart Tools > Format menu: Insert Shapes, Shape Styles, Word Art Styles, Arrange, and Size works just like the Format menus on Smart Art, Drawing, Graphics, and Pictures. Experiment with the features and options or see the Smart Art section above.

3. The Chart Tools > Design menu has Chart Layouts, Colors, and Chart Styles like the Smart Art Design menu. Once again, you can experiment with these features or see the Smart Art section above. However, the rest of this menu: Data > Switch Row/Column, Data > Select Data; Type > Change Chart Type; and Location > Move Chart, affects Charts only and does not appear on the other Tools menus. These are also self-explanatory, but go ahead and experiment for future reference.

13 chart styles format and chart styles design JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Chart Styles-Format and Chart Styles-Design


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