Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Displaying Images based on a Result.

Displaying Images based on a Result

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 1, 2020)


Dave has a large database that he keeps in an Excel workbook. It consists of material samples and uses the VLOOKUP function to generate various forms and reports. Dave wants to include a bitmap image on the form that changes according to one of the variables. For instance, if the form is describing an apple, then Dave wants a picture of an apple to appear; if describing a pear, then a pear should appear; and so on.

This is certainly a challenging task, but it is one that can surprisingly be done without macros. The steps are involved, but not that difficult to perform once you get to it:

  1. On a new worksheet, select a cell (such as cell B4).
  2. Enter the name "apple" into the Name box. This defines the name "apple" to refer to cell B4.
  3. With cell B4 still selected, choose Insert | Picture | From File. Select the picture of the apple and insert it.
  4. Enlarge the width and height of cell B4 so that the picture of the apple is contained entirely within the cell.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for each of your other pictures, placing each picture in a different cell and naming them according to the contents of the picture. (For the sake of this example, I'll assume that "pear" is cell D4 and "orange" is cell F4.)
  6. On the worksheet that will contain your form, create a formula that will contain the names of the fruit, such as the following formula, which displays "apple," "pear," or "orange," depending on the value in cell G1:
  1. It is important that the formula reference the names exactly as you defined them in step 2 for each fruit's picture. For the sake of this example, I'll assume that you entered this formula in cell A1 of Sheet1.
  2. Choose Name from the Insert menu, then choose Define. Excel displays the Define Name dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Define Name dialog box.

  4. Replace the contents of the Names In Workbook box with the word "Picture".
  5. Replace the contents of the Refers To box with the following formula:
  1. Click the OK button. You've now defined the name "Picture" to contain the formula entered in step 9.
  2. On the worksheet that will contain your form, select the cell where you want the dynamic image to appear.
  3. Choose Insert | Picture | From File. Select and insert a picture (it doesn't matter which one).
  4. Make sure the picture you inserted in step 12 is selected.
  5. In the formula bar, enter the formula =Picture. (This is the name you defined in steps 7 through 10.) The picture should change to reflect whatever fruit is named in cell A1.

Now, whenever the fruit name in cell A1 changes (which is, in turn, based on the value in cell G1), the image will change.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3128) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Displaying Images based on a Result.

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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What is one less than 2?

2020-02-09 13:03:30

Carlos Fuente

Yep, this does not work.

Only displays the name of the picture, not the image.

2020-01-12 17:45:21


Update: the function works, but doesn't care about the image, displays only the text value of the cell. Very annoying.

2020-01-12 11:56:48


Did everything to the letter, still doesn't work. Excel gives a #NAME? error. Checked a zillion times, everything is correctly copied.
Other than that I noticed that when I try out using the names in a cell (writing it in) it gives a 0 as a result. It tells me that it
doesn't care if I put a picture in that cell (B4,D4,F4), it just gives a 0 a result, since it thinks it is empty, contains no data.
(I'm using Excel 2003.)

2019-11-05 21:44:32

BE Dankberg

would be great if this worked....unfortunately the picture is not changing.

2019-10-21 00:56:48


I'm currently working on a project that requires me to show a floating table (linked image) when a cell is clicked and disappears when another cell is clicked while showing the table for the new cell. Your tip is amazing btw.

2019-07-31 10:32:08

Kim Hull

Hi Allen,

I hope you're keeping well.

I have read through your guide for "Displaying Images based on a Result" as it is very close to something I'm trying to achieve.
I have a "display area" in a worksheet where I'd like to dynamically show .jpg files dependant on a selection from a filtered list. Unfortunately I can't Insert the pictures into the worksheet as there are just over 1000 images I'm working with and I'm sure that would bring Excel to it's knees.

Would you know if it's possible to import an image from a Document folder outside of Excel, dependant on the selection from a filtered list?

e.g. The user would start typing in a "search box" (dynamic filtered list kind of thing) which would then show a list of results matching the search box entry. The user would click the desired result and this would then display the image associated with it in the "display area".

If this is possible could you point me in the right direction on your site to find the resources to teach me how to do this.

Many thanks in advance.

2019-05-25 13:30:28

James S

This works great! However I find when I do this, for every picture added that is linked to a Name variable my file increases by about 1.5MB. I've made sure it's not just that my original image is large. The file size only grows once the formula is added inside the picture.

Do you experience this? Is there a workaround? I set this up and it's working for about 20 different, but at the cost of a 40MB excel file..

Appreciate the troubleshooting

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