Official Color Names in VBA

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 17, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Excel uses a color palette consisting of 56 colors. You can see these colors if you display the Patterns tab of the Format Cells dialog box. When creating macros in VBA, you may want to refer to these colors, by name, using constants.

Unfortunately, Excel's VBA doesn't have constants defined for each of the 56 colors in the palette. The only colors defined, by name, are members of the ColorConstants class, and there are eight members of the class: vbBlack, vbWhite, vbRed, vbGreen, vbBlue, vbYellow, vbMagenta, and vbCyan.

In VBA you can use the ColorIndex property to define which color you want to use from Excel's palette. The problem is that ColorIndex is not a color; it is an index into the palette. Thus, a ColorIndex of 1 is the first color in the palette, 2 is the second, and so on. You can see this in action by looking at the sample code at this URL:

http://www.ozgrid.com/VBA/ReturnCellColor.htm

This code examines the ColorIndex property for a cell and returns a color name. The name returned, however, is not a constant for the color; it is only a description of what color the palette at that index appears to be.

If you want to set the color of a cell, you actually should use the Color property. This property allows you to use the eight VBA color constants mentioned earlier. It just so happens that if you use these Color property to set the interior color of a cell, you'll find that the eight named colors correspond to ColorIndex values of 1 through 8. The following macro illustrates this nicely:

Sub CheckColors()
    Dim arr8Colors As Variant
    Dim i As Integer

    arr8Colors = Array( _
      vbBlack, vbWhite, vbRed, vbGreen, _
      vbBlue, vbYellow, vbMagenta, vbCyan)
    For i = 0 To 7
        Selection.Offset(i, 0).Interior.Color = arr8Colors(i)
        Selection.Offset(i, 1).Value = Selection.Offset(i, 0).Interior.ColorIndex
    Next i
End Sub

This correspondence for the first eight values between Color and ColorIndex should only be taken as an artifact of history, dating back to the days when Excel only allowed you to use eight colors—the eight colors defined with VBA constants. If you want to specify some other color for a cell, you should use the RGB function to specify the Color property, as shown here:

Selection.Interior.Color = RGB(128, 64, 255)

The RGB function allows you to specify the red, green, and blue components of any color. Each component can range in value from 0 to 255.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2778) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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