How to Make Negative Numbers Red in Excel 2010: A Step-by-Step Guide

Making negative numbers red in Excel 2010 is a handy trick to quickly identify and differentiate positive and negative values in your spreadsheets. This can be achieved by using the Conditional Formatting feature, which allows you to change the font color of cells based on their values.

Once you complete the steps to make negative numbers red, any negative values in the selected range of cells will automatically change to red, making them stand out against other numbers. This can help you quickly spot areas that may need attention or indicate a loss.


When it comes to managing data, Excel is an incredibly powerful tool that can handle everything from simple lists to complex financial models. However, when you’re dealing with large sets of numbers, it can be challenging to quickly identify which values are positive and which are negative. This is where making negative numbers red in Excel 2010 comes into play – it’s not just about aesthetics; it’s about efficiency and clarity.

Imagine you’re analyzing a financial statement, and you need to quickly spot areas where expenses exceed income. Without any visual cues, you’d have to scan each cell carefully – a process that is both time-consuming and prone to error. By making negative numbers red, you can immediately see where the problems lie. This feature is relevant not only to financial analysts but also to anyone who needs to keep track of budgets, expenses, or any data that can have positive or negative values.

Step by Step Tutorial: Making Negative Numbers Red in Excel 2010

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to understand that this process will teach you how to use Conditional Formatting to change the color of negative numbers. It’s a simple, yet effective method to enhance the data visualization of your spreadsheets.

Step 1: Select the Range of Cells

Start by selecting the range of cells that contain the numbers you want to format.

Selecting the correct range of cells is crucial. If you select too few cells, you may miss some negative values. If you select too many, cells that shouldn’t be formatted might be affected. To select a range, click and drag over the cells, or hold down the Shift key while using the arrow keys.

Step 2: Open Conditional Formatting

With the cells selected, go to the Home tab and find the Styles group, then click on Conditional Formatting.

Conditional Formatting is a feature that applies formatting to cells based on certain conditions. In this case, the condition is whether the cell contains a negative number. It’s like telling Excel, “Hey, if you see a negative number, make it red!”

Step 3: Choose “Highlight Cells Rules”

From the Conditional Formatting dropdown menu, hover over “Highlight Cells Rules” and select “Less Than.”

This step takes you to a set of predefined rules that can be used to highlight cells meeting specific criteria. In this case, you’re telling Excel to look for cells that contain values less than zero – in other words, negative numbers.

Step 4: Enter “0” in the Format Cells Dialogue

In the dialogue box that appears, enter “0” in the box on the left. This sets the condition for formatting cells with values less than zero.

Entering “0” is how you define the threshold for what is considered negative. Any number below zero will be deemed negative and will be formatted according to the rule you’re setting.

Step 5: Choose a Red Text Format

After entering “0,” click on the dropdown box on the right and select a red text format or choose “Custom Format” to specify the shade of red you prefer.

Excel offers a few different shades of red by default, but you can also create a custom format if you need a specific hue. Remember, the goal is to make the negative numbers easy to identify, so choose a red that stands out to you.

Step 6: Click “OK” to Apply Formatting

Finally, click “OK” to apply the formatting. All negative numbers in the selected range will now be displayed in red text.

After clicking “OK,” Excel will immediately apply the conditional formatting rule to the selected cells. Any current or future values that meet the condition will now be highlighted in red.


Improved Data VisualizationMaking negative numbers red allows for easier visual scanning of data, quickly highlighting areas of concern or loss.
Time-SavingThis method saves time by reducing the need to manually inspect each cell to determine its value.
Dynamic FormattingConditional formatting automatically updates, ensuring that any changes to the data will be reflected in real-time.


Limited CustomizationExcel’s default red shades may not match your desired color palette, leading to a less personalized look.
Potential MisuseOveruse of conditional formatting can make a spreadsheet appear cluttered and confuse users.
Compatibility IssuesIf the spreadsheet is shared with users of older or non-Microsoft software, the formatting may not display correctly.

Additional Information

While making negative numbers red in Excel 2010 is a straightforward process, there are a few tips and tricks that can enhance your experience. For instance, you can apply this formatting to entire rows instead of just individual cells, which can provide an even clearer picture of where the negative values are. Additionally, you can combine this formatting with other rules, such as making positive numbers green, to create a highly visual and intuitive spreadsheet.

Remember, Conditional Formatting is a powerful feature with many other possibilities beyond just changing text color. You can use it to create data bars, color scales, and icon sets, which can add an extra layer of analysis to your data. Exploring these options can provide you with new ways to present and interpret your data effectively.


  1. Select the range of cells containing the numbers to be formatted.
  2. Access Conditional Formatting from the Home tab.
  3. Choose “Highlight Cells Rules” and then “Less Than.”
  4. Enter “0” to set the condition for negative numbers.
  5. Choose a red text format or create a custom red format.
  6. Click “OK” to apply the formatting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply this formatting to non-numeric data?

No, this specific conditional formatting rule is designed for numeric data. Non-numeric data will not be affected by the rule.

Will the formatting change if I update the numbers in the cells?

Yes, the formatting is dynamic. If a previously negative number becomes positive, it will no longer be red, and vice versa.

Can I apply multiple conditional formatting rules to the same cells?

Absolutely! Excel allows you to stack multiple rules, but be careful to ensure they don’t conflict with each other.

Is there a way to remove the formatting later?

Yes, you can remove conditional formatting by selecting the cells, going to the Home tab, and clicking on Conditional Formatting > Clear Rules.

Can I make negative numbers red in other versions of Excel?

Yes, the steps may vary slightly, but the Conditional Formatting feature is available in other versions of Excel as well.


Making negative numbers red in Excel 2010 is a useful skill for anyone working with data. It improves readability, helps identify trends or problems, and ultimately, can drive better decision-making. While Excel offers a variety of in-built red shades, don’t forget that you can customize the format to suit your needs.

And remember, the Conditional Formatting tool is not limited to just coloring text – it’s a gateway to a whole world of data visualization possibilities. So go ahead and give it a try – your spreadsheets will thank you for it!

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