Excel’s color palette explained

Problem

Excel’s color palette contains 56 colors, all of which can be accessed and most of which can be replaced using ExcelWriter (v6 or later). This post describes the layout of the palette and enumerate the default palette colors.

This content is most pertinent to the Excel 2003 color palette, which only has 56 colors. In Excel 2007 and later, workbooks can support millions of colors, but there is still an underlying workbook palette that has 56 colors. For more information about colors in multiple versions of Excel, we have enough post about workbook colors that are not displayed properly in older versions of Excel.

Solution

The palette is split up into a few different sections:

  • 40 Standard colors, which includes 8 system colors
  • 8 Chart fill colors
  • 8 Chart line colors

The 40 standard colors are available in all color selection dialogs in Excel, including the drop-down dialogs on the Formatting toolbar. In ExcelWriter, they can all be accessed through the Palette class’s “get” methods. The system colors can also be accessed through the Palette.SystemColor enumeration. For example:

 //--- Get black using the SystemColor enumeration Color black = Palette.SystemColor.Black; 

Chart Fills and Chart Lines are what Excel uses when automatically setting fill and line colors on charts. Chart fills and lines not limited to these colors however. These colors are available as options in Patterns and Chart color dialogs (i.e. Format > Cells > Patterns). In ExcelWriter, all Chart fill and line colors can be accessed and replaced using the Palette’s “get” and “set” methods.

All standard and chart colors can be replaced with other colors using the Palette class’s “set” methods except for the system colors. For example:

 //--- Replace color at index 4 with RGB values (162, 221, 138) wb.Palette.SetColorAt(4, 162, 221, 138); 

This would be equivalent to changing the color palette in Excel through Tools > Options > Color.

Palette Color Reference Charts

Provided below are two views of the default palette. The first is ordered by palette index, and the second is similar to how the palette is displayed from within Excel.

The colors in order of palette index

 //--- Get the color at palette index 9 Color darkGreen = wb.Palette.GetColorAt(9); 

The RGB and HEX equivalents of each color are provided

Palette Index Color RGB HEX System Color
0 0, 0, 0 #000000 Black
1 255, 255, 255 #FFFFFF White
2 255, 0, 0 #FF0000 Red
3 0, 255, 0 #00FF00 Green
4 0, 0, 255 #0000FF Blue
5 255, 255, 0 #FFFF00 Yellow
6 255, 0, 255 #FF00FF Magenta
7 0, 255, 255 #00FFFF Cyan
8 128, 0, 0 #800000
9 0, 128, 0 #008000
10 0, 0, 128 #000080
11 128, 128, 0 #808000
12 128, 0, 128 #800080
13 0, 128, 128 #008080
14 192, 192, 192 #C0C0C0
15 128, 128, 128 #808080
16 153, 153, 255 #9999FF Chart Fills
17 153, 51, 102 #993366
18 255, 255, 204 #FFFFCC
19 204, 255, 255 #CCFFFF
20 102, 0, 102 #660066
21 255, 128, 128 #FF8080
22 0, 102, 204 #0066CC
23 204, 204, 255 #CCCCFF
24 0, 0, 128 #000080 Chart Lines
25 255, 0, 255 #FF00FF
26 255, 255, 0 #FFFF00
27 0, 255, 255 #00FFFF
28 128, 0, 128 #800080
29 128, 0, 0 #800000
30 0, 128, 128 #008080
31 0, 0, 255 #0000FF
32 0, 204, 255 #00CCFF
33 204, 255, 255 #CCFFFF
34 204, 255, 204 #CCFFCC
35 255, 255, 153 #FFFF99
36 153, 204, 255 #99CCFF
37 255, 153, 204 #FF99CC
38 204, 153, 255 #CC99FF
39 255, 204, 153 #FFCC99
40 51, 102, 255 #3366FF
41 51, 204, 204 #33CCCC
42 153, 204, 0 #99CC00
43 255, 204, 0 #FFCC00
44 255, 153, 0 #FF9900
45 255, 102, 0 #FF6600
46 102, 102, 153 #666699
47 150, 150, 150 #969696
48 0, 51, 102 #003300
49 51, 153, 102 #339966
50 0, 51, 0 #003300
51 51, 51, 0 #333300
52 153, 51, 0 #993300
53 153, 51, 102 #993366
54 51, 51, 153 #333399
55 51, 51, 51 #333333

* The colors as displayed in Excel *

The following is similar to how the palette is displayed in Excel. To find the RGB and HEX equivalents, simply match up the palette index to the chart above.

Excel Palette / Palette Indexes
Standard Colors
0 52 51 50 48 10 54 55
8 45 11 9 13 4 46 15
2 44 42 49 41 40 12 47
6 43 5 3 7 32 53 14
37 39 35 34 33 36 38 1
Chart Fills
16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Chart Lines
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Note: When accessing the palette through VBA, the color indexes are 1-based, not 0-based as they are when using ExcelWriter. Therefore, when using VBA, simply add 1 to the indexes listed above.

Excel version of this information

An Excel file containing similar information about default palette colors is attached to this article. You may find it useful for testing different effects on the palette when changing colors using ExcelWriter.

Related Links

Attachments

Color_Palette_Example.zip

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