Google Sheets Alternate Row Color: How to Easily Shade Your Data

Published: January 25, 2024 - 4 min read

Julian Alvarado

Working with data in Google Sheets? Let’s make it easier to read. Alternating row colors can transform your spreadsheet from a bland grid into a clear, readable table. 

This guide will show you how, whether you’re managing small tasks or large datasets.

Setting Up Alternating Row Colors

Applying alternating row colors in Google Sheets enhances the readability of data by visually segmenting rows for easier scanning. This technique uses formatting style and color to distinguish every other row within the specified data range.

Using Predefined Alternating Colors

Google Sheets offers a range of predefined alternating color schemes to instantly format rows. To apply these:

  1. Select the data range you intend to format.
  2. Navigate to Format > Alternating colors.
  3. Choose from the default styles available.
  4. Click Done to apply the selected style to the range.

Linking to the appropriate steps, you can find guidance on how to activate this feature by learning how to apply an alternate color scheme.

Applying Conditional Formatting

For more control, conditional formatting allows customizing row colors based on specific conditions. Here’s a concise method:

  • Select the desired range.
  • Go to Format > Conditional formatting.
  • Set the Format cells if… dropdown to Custom formula is.
  • Enter the formula: =ISEVEN(ROW()) to color even rows or =ISODD(ROW()) for odd rows.
  • Pick the color you wish to apply and set the formatting style.
  • Click Done to apply these conditional formatting rules.

Through conditional formatting, the user can apply to range selective styling based on row number, either even or odd.

Creating Custom Format Rules

Sometimes the available options might not meet specific needs. In such cases, creating custom format rules is the solution:

  • Highlight the area to format.
  • Access Format > Conditional formatting.
  • Under the Format cells if… menu, select Custom formula is.
  • Insert a custom formula pertaining to the row numbers. For example, =MOD(ROW(),2)=0 will highlight every second row starting from the first.
  • Choose a color to apply and customize the look of the cells.
  • Hit Done to apply the custom formatting.

By customizing the formatting rules, users can apply a unique visual style that suits their dataset, using custom formulas to define which rows to format.

Whether choosing predefined schemes or creating a custom approach, alternating colors in Google Sheets is a straightforward process that significantly improves data visibility.

Advanced Alternating Color Techniques

When managing complex spreadsheets, advanced techniques in alternating colors can enhance both the visual appeal and the readability of data. These methods involve creating dynamic, condition-based formatting rules that respond to your data’s structure and special cases.

Alternating Colors with Custom Formulas

One can employ custom formulas to control the color alternation in a Google Sheets table. This is particularly useful for applying custom colors beyond the preset options. 

Utilize the row function to ascertain the row number, coupled with the mod function to achieve color alternate rows

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For instance, to color every other row, use a custom formula like =MOD(ROW(),2)=0 within the Conditional Formatting rule setup, which alternates the row color based on the evenness of the row number.

Dynamically Adjusting to Data Changes

Dynamic alternating rows require formulas that adapt as data is added or deleted. One must create a formula within Conditional Formatting that considers the presence of data within a row. For example, by incorporating the ISBLANK function alongside ROW, the formula can ignore empty rows, ensuring that the row color remains consistent with data entries. This automation accommodates the data range changes, maintaining the alternate coloring without manual adjustment.

Handling Special Cases in Alternating Colors

Headers and footers, or specific rows requiring unique formatting, present special cases in Google Sheets. 

To exempt the header row or footer from the alternating color scheme, adjust the formula to start from a different row number, such as =AND(MOD(ROW()-1,2)=0,ROW()>1)—which starts alternating from the second row. 

Similarly, to alternate colors every third or fourth row, change the modulus value in the mod function accordingly. The application of row function and mod function grants flexibility to accommodate such special requirements and ensure clarity in table data presentation.


Alternating row colors in Google Sheets improves data visibility. It’s easy, customizable, and adapts to your needs. Ready to streamline your data analysis? Try Coefficient for seamless Google Sheets integration.

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Julian Alvarado Content Marketing
Julian is a dynamic B2B marketer with 8+ years of experience creating full-funnel marketing journeys, leveraging an analytical background in biological sciences to examine customer needs.
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