How to Add Borders in Microsoft Excel

We all love Excel – ok maybe not everyone but honestly who does not appreciate the ease with which you can create, display and use data. The customizability of the application is amazing, and it is a staple in every office. For some people it is a staple at home too as you can use it for any data tracking task you have from inventory of your kitchen cupboards to logging your weight loss journey.

Since excel is so widely spread however, it is more than likely that you have not had any formal training in how to use it. You might see other people’s table’s a spreadsheet and find yourself wondering how they can achieve such aesthetic heights with their data when yours just looked flat our boring and plain.

Knowing how to use the border menu might just be one of those missing tools for you to be able to raise your data presentation to the next level. Here we will demonstrate how to add a variety of borders from very simple to complex creations that no one else will know how to replicate – unless they read our guide to Excel borders too.

As you check it out, you will see that we have chosen a simple table for our data depicting a weight vs number of days on a diet. We will start with using the preset simple automatic-colored borders then move on to showing you how to use different colors, how to clear borders and finally how to make it 100% authentic.

How to Add Borders Around a Table

In an excel workbook you might find that you have multiple sets of data, floating around, especially if you are new to Excel and have not had a chance to go pro on how to plan your workbook before you start. The simple act of adding borders around each set can help increase contrast and make it easier for you to see things within your workbook. Follow the steps below to add a simple black border to any table:

Step 1: open the Excel workbook containing your data. Here the data is in two columns but is otherwise just simple text.

Step 2 highlight the data. To do this just click a cell in any corner then hold the mouse pointer and drag it to highlight the entire table.

Step 3: in the top ribbon, select the home tab. From there under the font type option, you’ll see the borders button (seen as a rectangle separated into four by a border – see above). Click it as demonstrated above to bring up the menu. On the menu select outside borders denoted by a red arrow.

Step 4: your borders should appear as if by magic.

Sometimes this simple border doesn’t quite cut it for a fast higher contrast option try adding Thick outside borders. Check out the two images below for how to do it and what it looks like.  Start by following steps one and two above.

To add thick bottom outside borders follow the instruction in step three above, by opening the border menu, this time select Thick bottom borders as shown by the red arrow.

As you can see the thick border option offers significantly more contrast for the same number of clicks!

How to Add Bottom Borders to Separate Rows

Now that you’re a pro at adding outline borders you might be thinking that it’s time to diversity your skills. Good looking tables often separate the headings from the content by a line – how might you do this? It is surprisingly easy, just follow the steps below. The best way to separate rows is to use the bottom border options, you can choose from a simple or a thick bottom border. Or you can customize it to your liking, we show you how to do that later.

Step 1: select the cells in the row you want to add a bottom border to

Step 2: In the borders menu select the type of bottom border you want – if you’re not looking for something special then thick is a good option as highlighted above by the red arrow. Right click the option you want.

Step 3: your thick bottom border should appear and look like above.

Looking so much better already when compared to the bare data. We can still do more though! Next we’ll add a separation between the days and the weight-ins.

How to Add Side Borders to Separate Columns 

This isn’t always required and is often a question of preference, though some workplaces have specific demands on table formatting that means you may need to be working with side borders to meet the required look. You can use right or left side borders to achieve the same thing – separating two columns, but you’ll have to select the opposite column. In the steps below we choose the right-side border option, so we select the left-side column.

Step 1: Select the rows in the left side column that you want to add a right border to – as you can see we didn’t select the title row above, this is a style choice you should select it as well if you’d like a border separation between the titles as well.

Step 2: select between right border and thick right border – we recommend a simple right border as denoted by the red arrow as a thick one will provide too much contrast and not look as appealing.

Step 3: the right border should appear separating the columns for the rows you selected.

The table looks significantly better than it did at the start but it’s not standing out, and is not lively. Below we’ll walk you through how to make it a little more interesting for the eye.

How to Add Colored Borders

Firstly, we made some non-border edits to our table, we’ll describe them below the picture. You can make similar edits too using your preferred background colors, fonts, font colors etc.

As you can see we have kept the same border profile, but have changed the background colors to a dark blue for the titles and a lighter blue for the content, we have centered the text in the cells and changed the fond color to white for the titles. The appearance of the table is greatly improved in terms of aesthetics. The black borders appear harsh now when displayed against the blue background.

Luckily, we can add borders of any color, check out how to do this in the steps below.

Step 1: open the borders menu and scroll down to Line color, now select the color you want (we chose a preset dark blue but if you click more colors you can choose any color) and click it. Since this option is under the draw borders section your cursor will change to a pen; click escape to exit draw borders then move on to the next step.

Excel does not allow you to change colors of existing borders easily, but you can draw over them. So the next step will consist of repeating the steps for outside, bottom, and right borders with the new color.

Step 2: use the new color to add borders where you would like them, here we’ve chosen outside border, a border separating the columns and a border separating the title row from the content. We have also changed the content font color to match the new border color.

The table now looks professional and can be used in presentations or just be nicer to look at for personal use.

How to Use a Different Border Style

We find it relatively uncommon to require different border styles apart from thick and plain, however some people enjoy using them, and some paradigms occasionally require a double bottom border. This is very similar to the process of choosing a new color.

In the border menu select line style then select the style of line you want in the picture we select a double border. Remember to press escape as you will bring up the pen cursor again when you do this.

You can add the new line style where you want it using the tools we taught you above.

Clearing All Borders

You might just want to start over with your borders maybe you went too Rouge One on them (as we demonstrate below), there is an option in the border menu for this! Select your table then select “no border” as shown in the image below. All the borders you have added will magically disappear.

Step 1: Once you’ve selected your table open the border menu and select no border.

Step 2: all borders are now gone, and you are free to do what you like. Pst there is also an option to remove all formatting if you want a completely blank slate.

Drawing Borders for the Ultimate Snowflake Table

Sometimes you just want to do something really complicated like having every other column separator be a different color or having two-line style in one border. This is where Excels Draw Borders option might be handy. Below we demonstrate an example of what fun can be had with the draw orders option. We start with no-borders on out table, but you don’t have to do that.

We selected a mustard color under the color option and this time didn’t press the escape key so the cursor remained pen shaped. Once you have your pen shaped cursor you can click on any border you want to be the style you’ve selected, and the pen will make it appear. Above we have added title separator borders and mustard colored bordered to every other cell between the columns.

We continued changing the colors, border styles etc as we drew out borders to produce the above. We do not recommend the aesthetic displayed, it’s just there to show the endless possibilities provided by this option.

Most people will not need to do this however, and it is quite time consuming to draw in every single border.


We hope you have enjoyed this tutorial on borders in Excel, this is aimed at people new to using the feature. As you can see it is really easy and makes a huge difference to the appearance of data. You can choose many more advanced options if you in the border menu select the bottom option; More borders …, however for most people this is simply not required.

Happy bordering.