How To Make Negative Numbers Red In Google Sheets

Last Updated on November 2, 2023 by Jake Sheridan

In this tutorial, you will learn how to make negative numbers red in Google Sheets.

It’s standard practice in financial reporting to highlight negative numbers red to make reports easier to read and show where a company is losing money. This tutorial will walk you through two ways to make negative numbers red in Google Sheets

Conditional Formatting Method

If you don’t have any other conditional formatting rules that may cause conflicts, conditional formatting is the easiest option for coloring negative numbers

Here’s how to apply the conditional formatting rule:

Step 1

Select a cell or range to apply the conditional formatting to and open the Format menu, then choose Conditional Formatting

Step 2

In the Conditional Format Rules sidebar under Format Cells If, choose Less Than

Step 3

Type 0 into the Value or Formula field to specify that the rule will apply to all values less than zero

Step 4

Under Formatting Style, click on the Fill Color icon and choose None to remove the fill color formatting

Step 5

Click on Text Color icon and select a red color to apply to negative numbers

Step 6

Any negative numbers in the selected range of the spreadsheet will immediately format in red so you can see how the color looks

Step 7

Click the green Done button when you’re ready to save the formatting rule

Custom Number Formatting Method

Sometimes if you have a number of other conditional formatting rules, the custom number format rule will work better

Follow these steps to use this method:

Step 1

Select a range and open the Format menu, hover over Number, and then More Formats at the bottom and finally choose Custom Number Format

Step 2

The Custom Number Formats dialog will appear. Custom number formats allow you to individually apply formatting to 4 different categories:

  • Positive numbers
  • Negative numbers
  • Zero
  • Text

The 4 different number rules are entered as a single string, separated by semicolons (;). In this case, we’ll apply a formatting rule that formats all numbers in the General format but with negative numbers red. Text will remain unchanged, which is specified by the @ character. Type this formula into the custom number format field: “General;[Red]General;General;@

Step 3

The Sample text below the input field should display the 4 categories with negative numbers red

Step 4

If you want to change the number format in other ways (for example if you want to add currency symbols), make those edits to the format now. For example, to add dollar signs to the start of each number, you could use this format: “$ General;[Red]$ General;$ General;@

Step 5

When you’re done editing the number format, click Apply to save the changes


Example Spreadsheet: Make a copy of the example spreadsheet

In this tutorial, I covered how to make negative numbers red in Google Sheets. Want more? Check out all the Google Sheets Tutorials.