How to Add Cell Borders in Excel (3 Easy Ways)

When working with large amounts of data, it can sometimes be hard to read the data, if not formatted properly.

Moreover, there are usually parts of the dataset that are more important than others, so you would want these cells to stand out from the rest. This can get the reader to concentrate more on the important areas of the dataset.

There are a number of ways to improve the readability of your data. A very effective way is to add borders around the cells.

Borders can also be customized to highlight important cells. For example, you can use a thicker border to make the Grand total or some important data value stand out.

Excel provides several options for cell borders. In this tutorial, I will show you three different ways to apply borders to cells in Excel.

The options you choose and how you apply them to your spreadsheets will be up to your creativity. But I can guarantee you this, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

How to Add Cell Borders in Excel

Say we have a dataset as the one given below.

Dataset on which border needs to be applied

We notice two things here:

  1. The cells do have gridlines, but they could be more readable if there were borders around every cell containing data.
  2. The most important cell in this dataset is the Grand Total. So, it would help if we could make this particular cell more pronounced by adding a thicker border around it.

There are three ways to add and customize cell borders in Excel:

  • By accessing the Border button from the Home tab
  • By accessing the Format Cell dialog box’s Border tab.
  • By manually drawing the borders.

We are going to take a look at each of the above ways one by one.

How to Add Borders from the Home Tab

  1. Select the cells around which you want to add borders. To select individual cells, press down the control key, and select each cell. To select a group of cells, drag your mouse over the group of cells you want to select.
  2. Click the arrow next to the Borders button. You will find it in the Home tab, under the ‘Font’ group.Click on the Border icon in the ribbon
  3. A dropdown menu should now appear. This will contain quick border options that you can apply to your selected cells. In our dataset, we applied simple grid-like single borders around each cell. We also added a thick border around the grand total to make it stand out.

Here’s how the dataset looks after applying borders:

Data with cell border applied to it

The borders provided an instant ‘lift’ to the entire dataset.

The Borders button dropdown provides a selection of common border options that you can quickly apply to your selection. You can choose to have individual borders on the top, bottom, left, or right. You can also combine 2 to 3 borders or have all 4 borders for each selection.

Additionally included in this menu are options for various border styles, like thick border, double border, and other common border combinations.

Border Options in the ribbon

If you want more options, though, you can navigate to the Format Cells dialog box.

How to Add Borders from the Format Cells Dialog Box

Another way to add borders to cells or ranges is to use the Format Cells dialog box. While it has many of the same options to apply borders, you get access to many more additional options as well.

For example, here’s just a glance at the dialog box’s Border tab:

Format Cells Border tab options

  • On the left of the dialog box, there’s a ‘Style’ section, where you can select the type of border you want, like dashed, dotted, thick, double, and more.
  • The ‘Color’ section is also present on the left side. As the name suggests, this lets you select the color you want for the borders.
  • The right side top portion has some ‘Presets’ that you can select to quickly add borders either in between cells or around cells.
  • The lower portion of the right side is the main ‘Border’ section. This lets you select which parts of your selection you want your borders on.
  • This section also provides a small preview of how your selections are going to look when you apply your choice of borders on them.

There are a number of ways to open the Format Cells Dialog box:

  • You can open it by selecting the ‘More Borders’ option from the border button’s dropdown menu.Click on the More border option
  • You can access it by right-clicking on any selected cell and clicking on ‘Format Cells’ from the popup menu that appears.Click on the Format cells options
  • You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+1 (or Cmd+1 if you’re on a Mac).

Here are the steps to follow when you want to add borders using the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Use any of the above methods to open the ‘Format Cells’ Dialog box.
  2. Select the Border tab.
  3. Here you will see a whole assortment of border options that you can play around with. For our example, we made the following selections:
    • An orange accent line color
    • A dashed line style
    • The Outline preset
    • The Inside presetBorder tab in the Format Cells dialog box
  4. When you’re done putting all your border settings, click OK to close the dialog box. Your borders will now get applied to your selections.Cells with Orange dashed border

How to Add Borders by Manually Drawing Them

Finally, if you want more control over individual borders, you can use the ‘Draw Borders’ feature of Excel.

Draw Borders gives you the flexibility to draw even irregular shaped border, something that can be quite tough to do using the Format Cells dialog box.

Here’s a quick look at the different options you get under the Draw Borders feature:

Draw Borders Option

  • Draw Border: This lets you draw a border along any gridline. When you select a block of cells in this mode, it creates a rectangular border around the outside of the selected block of cells.
  • Draw Border Grid: This also lets you draw a border along any gridline, but when you select a block of cells in this mode, it creates borders both inside and outside the block of cells (to form a grid).
  • Erase Border: This lets you erase any previously created borders individually or collectively.
  • Line Color: This lets you select the color of the individual borders.
  • Line Style: This lets you select the type of individual borders, like dashed, dotted, thick, double, etc.

Here’s how to use the Draw Borders feature:

  1. Since you are going to manually draw individual borders one by one, you don’t need to have any cells selected.
  2. Click the arrow next to the Borders button. You will find it in the Home tab, under the ‘Font’ group.Click on the Border icon in the ribbon
  3. From the dropdown menu that appears, navigate down to the ‘Draw Borders’ section.Draw border options
  4. First, select the line colorChoose the border color
  5. And then select the border styleChoose the border style
  6. Notice that as soon as you select an option from the Draw Borders section, your mouse pointer turns into a pencil, to tell you that you are now in ‘Draw Border’ mode.Icon changes into a pencil
  7. Go ahead and draw your borders along any gridline you like. You can even create a rectangular border by clicking and dragging around any block of cells. We have chosen to just draw two thick borders above and below the grand total.
  8. Once you’re done drawing all your required borders, you can come out of the border drawing mode by clicking on the Border button (under the Home tab) again.

Here is what our dataset looks like after drawing borders above and below the grand total:

Dataset with thick upeer and lower cell border

The Difference between Borders and Gridlines

Before you start applying borders to your cells, it is important to understand the basic difference between borders and gridlines.

Gridlines are the light-colored boxes around every cell in your sheet. They are there to help define individual cell borders. In Excel, there are options to show or hide the gridlines when you take a print of your worksheet.

Borders, on the other hand, help to accent a cell or set of cells. So even if you choose not to display gridlines in your printout, your borders will remain visible and get printed, unless you remove them.

Additionally, when you hide gridlines in the Excel window, they get hidden for the entire worksheet. But with borders, you can choose to have them displayed on specific cells or ranges, even when gridlines are hidden.

So, in this Excel tutorial, I showed you three ways in which you can add borders to your cells, both individually and in bulk.

I would encourage you to experiment with the different border settings to see which style suits you and your data.

You can also use these border settings to create your own signature style for highlighting important cells in spreadsheets.

I hope you found this tutorial useful!

Other Excel tutorials you may find useful: