Improved Color Palette Needed

You may already have plans to improve the current Color Palette, but I’ll make a few suggestions and comments.

Limiting the color palette to just a couple rows of standard colors is taking a step back, reminiscent of the Excel 2003 days.

The most useful aspect of the Google Sheets and Excel color palettes are the columns of colors which let you choose different luminosities.

Theme Colors: I prefer the way Excel works, not how Google Sheets does it. The reason is that Excel’s theme colors modify the entire column of colors in the palette. So, if you’ve been using the lighter or darker versions of a color, changing the theme color will change all of those variations. The implementation of themes in Google Sheets is sub par because it doesn’t do this.

For more detail about using themes, see the article Theme Enabled Templates

I’ve designed almost all of my templates to use the Accent 1 color in Excel. I’ve also created a beta version of an online tool that can help design a custom color palette:

I mention this tool (which is only a beta version right now) to point out two important things, which are represented in the graph and the sample table at the bottom of that color palette generator.

First, the set of Accent colors in Excel is what Excel users for the first colors of separate chart series. Second, when you are creating a table, it normally looks better to use a monochromatic color scheme.

So, my suggestion for is to

  1. Set up the color palette so that you have a row of theme colors that is compatible with Excel, meaning that if you import an Excel file,’s theme colors will use that workbook’s theme colors.
  2. Like Google Sheets and Excel, allow the user to select from a variety of shades for those colors.
  3. Come up with a default selection of theme colors to user for when you open a blank spreadsheet. Perhaps even a selection of the same colors used by Google Sheets.
  4. Include a grayscale row of colors.

The beauty of using theme colors like Excel is that you only need to actually define about 8 colors (keeping the colors for hyperlinks the standard blue/purple). You don’t need the same system as Excel for defining color themes, but perhaps you could let the user modify the theme colors by selecting the primary color and then using your existing controls to modify the color.

For reference:

Google Sheets Color Palette:

Excel Color Palette:

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Great suggestions, we had not considered supporting themes but you make a good case for doing so.

We do have plans in the short term to improve the color pickers so what you will likely see from us soon is something along these lines, with gray scale and a larger number of predefined colors:


…and the ability to select a custom color:


We are unlikely to support themes in the short term given the amount of new features and enhancements currently on our roadmap. However, do see the value of themes and will consider this as a future addition.

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These screenshots look like a significant improvement, and will probably be sufficient for the majority of users. If the colors are the same as the GS palette (it looks like are), then it will also be easy to continue using those colors if you import a spreadsheet from GS (assuming you’ve been using the colors from the main palette).

When you import an Excel file into GS, or open a spreadsheet in GS that uses custom colors, the custom colors update based on the colors used in the spreadsheet. That is very useful, as you would typically want to continue using those colors when modifying your imported spreadsheet.

Consider the extra work required of the user if the existing colors used in the spreadsheet do not automatically populate the Custom colors:

  1. You either have to manually set the custom colors based on the colors you are using in your spreadsheet - or -
  2. Any time you want to continue using an existing format, you need to copy/paste from another cell in your workbook - or -
  3. You change all of the colors used in your original spreadsheet to the colors available in the main palette

Makes sense to populate custom colors with all unique colors encountered during import of a sheet.

Today’s update took a step forward and a step back.

Step Forward: The ability to choose from a greater variety of colors is great.

Step Back: Now you can’t view the color code of an existing color in the spreadsheet. So, to add it to the list of custom colors, you have to use some other program to figure out what that color is. Without doing that, there is no way to reproduce that existing color with copy/paste or the format painter.

Having custom colors persist across login sessions is interesting and may turn out to be useful, especially if people use consistent custom colors for all their worksheets.

With the new color palette you can view the hex code of the color by hovering your mouse over it for a second or two:

However, it’s not possible to select and copy this value so agree this could use some improvement. Perhaps we should show the currently selected color code somewhere in the dialog itself,

Sorry … I wasn’t clear. I mean when you have a cell with a color that you want to add into the custom colors, like this …


when I try to add that color by selecting the cell and clicking on Custom colors, I can’t see the code for the cell I’ve selected:


The old palette let you see the color code for the cell you had selected (and that is also how Excel and GS works).

Ah, makes sense. I think we can consider this a bug. We’re tracking this as issue # 001667.

Issue #001667 has been fixed.


Should the custom color option be working? If so it’s not for me…

If not, when is the planned release?

On a side note, I too support the option to save themes, especially ones we can custom create–having been a graphic designer before transitioning to PM, I am dying to be able to get a little creative with my spreads.

Exhibit A:

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Hi Nicole,

Thank you for surfacing this and you are right it does seem to be a Bug.

I’ve shared this internally with the team and we will update you once we figure out what the cause is/when we can expect an update on this.

Thank you again for surfacing this!

We are tracking this as a defect (BUG-003756). Will update once it is fixed.

Issue #003756 is fixed now with the latest upgrade.

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