Defining a custom theme

A theme is a combination of colors, fonts and effects.

This is especially significant when you need to create charts and you want them to look uniform using a certain color palette for the lines and bars. 

Each newly-created chart applies the Office theme by default, and so, pre-defining the colors of Series 1, Series 2, and so on, and then saving it as a theme will save you the time of having to change them every time you add a new chart. 

To define a new custom theme: 

  1. Go to the Page Layout tab. 
  2. Select Colors in the Themes section. 
  3. Select Customize Colors

4. In the window popup, change the colors according to your preferred palette. 

5. Rename the theme. 

6. Click Save

As an example, I renamed the theme as “LG Default 1”. You will find the new custom theme under Page Layout > Colors. Apart from defining colors, the fonts and effects can be defined as well.  

Once you have finalized the tweaks for all three components, you can save it as a theme. To do this: 

  1. Go to Page Layout tab. 
  2. Select Themes
  3. Select Save Current Theme

4. Rename the file name of the theme. 

5. Make sure that for Save as type, “Office Theme” is selected. 

6. Click on Save.   

For this example, I have saved it using the filename “Theme LG Default”.

It is saved under Document Themes under the Templates folder.  

Setting the default theme

Once the custom theme has been created, it can now be set as the default Excel theme.

To do this: 

  1. Open a new blank workbook. 
  2. Go to Themes under the Page Layout tab. 
  3. Select the custom theme you want to set as default. This is the only change that is made to this workbook. Make sure to keep the workbook blank. 

4. Go to File and select Save As

5. Keep the file name as is but delete the number at the end (e.g. “Book” instead of “Book 1”). 

6. Under the Save As type dropdown, select Excel Template

7. Save it directly in the XLSTART folder, which you will need to locate manually. If you are unable to locate it in the Save window, save it in the Desktop in the meantime and locate the folder using the Explorer. 

8. Click Save

9. Close Microsoft Excel. 

Finding the XLSTART folder

If you are unable to locate the Excel Start folder: 

  1. Open the Explorer 
  2. Type XLSTART in the search box. 
  3. Once it is found, go to the Desktop. 
  4. Right click on the template you have saved. Select Cut. Another way to do this is to press CTRL + X. 
  5. Go to the XLSTART folder. Do a right click and select Paste, or press CTRL + V. 

Testing the default template

To know if the new theme has been successfully set as the default theme, create a new Excel workbook.

Go to Page Layout > Themes.

It should show that your custom theme is currently in use.

Leila Gharani

I'm a 6x Microsoft MVP with over 15 years of experience implementing and professionals on Management Information Systems of different sizes and nature.

My background is Masters in Economics, Economist, Consultant, Oracle HFM Accounting Systems Expert, SAP BW Project Manager. My passion is teaching, experimenting and sharing. I am also addicted to learning and enjoy taking online courses on a variety of topics.