9 Google Sheets Design Tips

Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Jake Sheridan

In this guide, you will learn all about designing pro-looking Google Sheets, including colours, sizings & more design tweaks.

Ever opened a spreadsheet and thought:

  • How do I make Google Sheets look nice?
  • How do I style a Google sheet?
  • How do I make an aesthetic spreadsheet?

If you have, well done, you have ascended to a new level of geek.

Welcome to the club. It’s nice here 🎨

Anyway, this guide will cover everything you need to know to make your Google Sheets look good.

Spreadsheet Design 101: (aka How to Make Pretty Google Sheets)

Below you will find a growing list of step-by-step instructions for designer better Google Sheet templates:

1. Select the Right Font for Readability

Font choice plays a pivotal role in enhancing your spreadsheets in Google Sheets.

Firstly, the clarity and legibility of the chosen fonts can help users better read your data.

In large spreadsheets, a well-chosen font can reduce eye strain and make it easy to parse through complex tables.

Furthermore, the style of the font also influences the professionalism and overall presentation of the spreadsheet.

A suitable font not only gives the spreadsheet a polished look but also organizes it better, which is crucial in professional or academic environments.

Here’s how you can change the font of your data in Google Sheets:

Step 1

Open your Google Sheets document. Locate and click on the sheet where you want to change the font.

Select the cells whose font you want to change.

You can click and drag to select multiple cells, select a whole row or column by clicking its header, or press Ctrl + A (Cmd + A on Mac) to select all cells in the sheet.

Step 2

With the cells selected, go to the toolbar at the top of the page. Here, you’ll find the font style dropdown menu.

Click on the font style dropdown menu to view the list of available fonts. Scroll through the list and click on the font you want to use.

This will change the font of all the selected cells to your chosen font.

Step 3

If you need to adjust the font size, next to the font style dropdown, there’s a font size dropdown.

Click on it and select the desired size for your font.

Step 4

You can also apply additional formatting like bold, italic, or underline using the respective buttons in the toolbar, if needed.

2. Include Sufficient White Space

One aspect you should consider when designing your spreadsheets is the effective use of white space.

Users will prefer sufficient blank space between different tables and charts to properly separate different slices of data.

To provide an even cleaner look, you can disable gridlines and set up custom borders to create a custom data layout that suits your organization or user base.

To create a cleaner spreadsheet by disabling gridlines, using custom borders, and adding ample white space, follow these steps:

Step 1

Open your spreadsheet in Google Sheets or Excel.

Make sure you are on the sheet you want to modify.

Step 2

To disable gridlines, go to the “View” menu.

In Google Sheets, uncheck the option “Gridlines.”

In Excel, under the “View” tab, uncheck the box for “Gridlines” in the “Show” group.

Step 3

Select the cells or range where you want to add custom borders.

For a more organized look, consider only applying borders to areas containing data or headings.

In this example, we’ll add a thick bottom border below the range containing our table headers.

Step 4

In the toolbar, click on the Border icon to reveal more border formatting options.

Here, you can choose the style, color, and thickness of the borders.

Apply the borders to outline the data range or individual cells as needed.

Step 5

If your spreadsheet contains multiple sections, consider adding extra white space between these sections.

You can insert new rows or columns that are left blank to create visual separation.

3. Follow a Uniform Data Alignment Style

Google Sheets offers a few ways to align your data in a cell.

Inconsistent data alignment can look unprofessional and may also make it difficult to navigate your spreadsheet.

Here are some rules you can follow for aligning your data:

  • Use the Left align option on columns that contain text data.
  • Use the Right align option on numerical columns. When used alongside uniform decimal places, the Right align option allows users to easily compare even numbers with a large number of digits.
  • Use text wrapping on headers or columns with long data. This will enable users to read the entire text of a cell without having to increase the column width by too much.
  • When a table contains a large number of columns, you can consider using the Text rotation tool to fit the column headers in a smaller space without needing to increase the column width.

4. Use Contrasting Shades for Alternating Rows

By applying different colors to alternating rows, it becomes easier to distinguish one row from another, which is particularly helpful in large datasets.

This visual distinction helps to reduce the likelihood of reading errors, especially when scanning across long rows of data.

Additionally, alternating row colors can make a spreadsheet more visually appealing and less monotonous, which can be beneficial when presenting data to others.

Luckily, Google Sheets includes a feature that will automatically apply alternating row colors to a range in just a few clicks.

To add alternating row formatting in Google Sheets, just follow these steps:

Step 1

Open your Google Sheets document and select the sheet where you want to apply the alternating row formatting.

Click and drag your cursor to select the range of cells you want to format.

If you want to format the entire sheet, you can click the square in the top-left corner between the row numbers and column letters to select everything.

Step 2

Go to the menu bar and click on “Format”.

In the drop-down menu, select “Alternating colors”.

Step 3

A sidebar titled “Alternating colors” will appear on the right side of the screen.

In this sidebar, you can choose from default color styles under “Styles” or create a custom style.

To create a custom style, click on the three available color pickers to choose your desired colors.

Step 4

After choosing your colors and settings, click “Done” at the bottom of the “Alternating colors” sidebar.

5. Resize Gridlines to Increase Readability

Resizing gridlines in Google Sheets, which essentially means adjusting the height of rows and the width of columns, can significantly enhance the readability and clarity of your spreadsheet data.

Here’s how to auto-size a column’s width based on its data.

Step 1

Open the target Google Sheets document and select the column you want to resize automatically.

Step 2

Right-click on the selected column and click the Resize column option.

In the dialog box, select the Fit to data option.

Click OK to proceed.

Step 3

Google Sheets should now automatically resize the target column to fit the data within the column.

Step 4

There’s an even quicker way to resize a column to fit its data.

First, place your cursor on the right border of the column’s header.

Double-click the boundary to automatically resize the column to fit the column data.

This method will also work when multiple columns are selected.

6. Add Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting is a powerful tool in spreadsheets that helps readers better understand data by visually highlighting important information based on specific criteria.

It uses colors, fonts, and styles to differentiate data points, making patterns, trends, and outliers more apparent at a glance.

To add conditional formatting to your Google Sheets data, which allows you to automatically apply formatting to cells based on the data they contain, follow these steps:

Step 1

Highlight the range of cells you want to format.

You can click and drag to select a specific range, click on a column or row header to select the entire column or row, or press Ctrl + A (Cmd + A on Mac) to select the entire sheet.

Step 2

Click on the “Format” menu in the top menu bar. From the dropdown list, select “Conditional formatting”.

This action will open the Conditional Format Rules sidebar on the right side of your screen.

In the Conditional Format Rules sidebar, under the “Format cells if” dropdown, select the condition that you want to apply.

Google Sheets provides a range of predefined conditions, like “Text is exactly”, “Date is before”, “Cell is empty”, etc., or you can choose “Custom formula is” to enter your own formula.

Step 3

After selecting the condition, specify the criteria for the condition.

For example, if you chose “Greater than”, enter the number you want to use for the comparison.

Using the format rule above, only cells with values above 100 will be affected.

Step 4

Below the condition settings, choose the formatting style you want to apply when the condition is met.

You can change the text color, cell background color, and other formatting options like bold, italic, etc.

For now, let’s just highlight our cell.

We can do this by changing the fill color of our cell to another color like green.

Step 5

Once you have set the condition and the formatting style, click on the “Done” button in the Conditional Format Rules sidebar.

7. Use Appropriate Headers for Tables

Legible and appropriate headers can certainly improve the design of your tables and increase your document’s readability.

Here are some tips you can follow to create useful and understandable headers for your tables:

  • Use concise and descriptive names that indicate what data is contained in each column. Do avoid overly complex or technical jargon unless it is standard in your field.
  • Apply bold formatting to make the headers stand out from the rest of the data in the table. This can help users distinguish between data and headings at a glance.
  • Choose a capitalization style (like title case or upper case) and stick with it for all headers for consistency.
  • Apply subtle background colors to headers to visually separate them from the data. Ensure the color is not too overpowering and maintains good contrast with the text.
  • If your headers are long, use the ‘wrap text’ feature to keep them within the column width. This ensures that all header text is visible without widening columns excessively.
  • If your table is long, freeze the header row so that it remains visible as you scroll through the data. This helps in keeping track of which data falls under which header.
  • If applicable, include the units of measurement in the headers to clarify what the numbers represent. For example, you can use the header “Length (ft.)” or “Distance (km).”

8. Freeze Rows and Columns as Needed

Google Sheets lets you freeze rows and columns in your spreadsheet, allowing header rows and columns to remain on top as you scroll through your spreadsheet.

This can help users maintain the context of the data they’re looking at without having to scroll up to read what header a value is under.

To freeze one or more columns in Google Sheets, just follow these steps:

Step 1

First, select the Google Sheets document where you want to freeze columns.

Step 2

A quick way to freeze the top row is by adjusting the freeze panes in your document.

To adjust the freeze pane for rows, place your cursor above the horizontal freeze pane line above the row numbers.

Drag this line downward to expand the freeze pane to cover the first row.

In the example above, we’ve expanded our freeze pane to cover the first row.

When scrolling downyour document, this frozen row will remain visible at all times.

Step 3

Another way to freeze rows and columns is through the Freeze options under the View menu.

Select View > Freeze and select the number of columns or rows you want to freeze in the current sheet.

9. Create Colorful Charts

Here are some useful tips to follow when adding charts to your Google Sheets documents.

Choose the Right Chart Type

Remember to match the chart type to your data for effective visualization.

For example, use line charts for trends over time, bar charts for when you want users to compare data points, and pie charts for showing parts of a whole.

Consistent and Meaningful Color Use

Use colors consistently and choose hues that are distinct but harmonious.

Colors should add meaning, such as using red for negative values and green for positive values.

Highlight Key Data

Use colors or styles (like bold or larger fonts) to highlight the most important data points or trends in your chart.

Add a Descriptive Title and Labels

Include a clear title and label your axes or data series.

This provides context and helps the reader quickly understand the scope and timespan of the current chart.

Summary

Hopefully this guide has given you an overview of Google Sheets design.

What’s Next?

Explore some of the other useful resources on Sheets for Marketers: