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Become the master of your own spreadsheet borders

Google spreadsheet cell borders are not a one size fits all scenario. We have options to set the border thickness and a few other things.

The range of cell and range borders available in Google sheets

We also have the ability to add borders to each individual cell, or around groups of cells, essentially covering all user cases.

The different border styles available in Google sheets

Along with a choice of three different border thicknesses, we can also set the border style and colour.

Cell borders, although can effectively replace them, shouldn't be confused with grid lines. Grid lines consist of a single colour and are either on or off. The two images above show the grid lines turned off.

Usually, for the sake of convenience, I wait until I've finished before removing the gridlines.

Adding or removing Google sheet gridlines

To toggle gridlines on and off: hover over View in the toolbar and then Show. There you'll see a range of effects that can be toggled.

The option to toggle gridlines on and off

Making adjustments to cell borders

All the sheet border settings are accessed from the same dropdown located on the lower toolbar. While getting used to them, some things can seem a little quirky.

Sheet borders dropdown

If, for example, you have added borders to a range of cells, then add more to the range, or decide to change the thickness, colour or style, things may begin to get a little erratic.

What I usually do is highlight all the cells in the range, open the borders dropdown, then click the last border option to remove all borders. After that reapply the borders and the desired thickness, colour and style.

Border thickness, colour, and style settings remain constant. If you're adding different styles or colours, you'll need to reset them. You may find it better to reset them before adding the actual borders.

Adding multiple borders

The preset borders that Google provides don't cover every scenario. For example you may only want to add borders to the left and right, or top and bottom. This is not a problem.

All we have to do is select multiple borders in the same process.

Ranges with multople individual borders added

Change cell border colours

The border colour palette is to the right of the borders. If you don't see the colour you want, clicking Custom will give you the options to select a shade, or add your own. Something I do often.

Upon opening the colour palette you may notice a difference between what you see and the image above.

Below the Standard heading you'll see a row of colour swatches. The black and white ones represent the standard colours I've used previously. The others are custom colours I've added myself.

The colour picker shown when adding a custom border colour

Personally: I rate the colour picker we see after clicking Custom as worse than useless. I only use this to add an hexadecimal colour code.

The standard border colour picker

The custom border colours I've added are also accessible when I'm setting font colour and cell background colour.

If you want to play around with adding a custom hexadecimal colour, copy and paste this #34a853 green to the input field at the top of the custom colours.

Sometimes an exact colour match is essential, for example when trying to match a company's logo colours.

To eliminate guesswork, I upload company logos to a free online colour finder app. Which gives me the exact hexadecimal colour code.

Adding multiple border styles to the same range

With just a little care we can add a different style border to each side of a single cell, range, or even to the inside and outside of a range.

  1. Select the cell or range
  2. set the border style and colour
  3. Set the border position
  4. Click off the cell or range to close the borders dropdown
  5. Repeat the above steps to add borders in different locations
Ranges with different border styles and colours

I must emphasise that closing the borders dropdown is required. Otherwise the border style and colour will update each time you change them.

Headings and Borders

When creating a table with a heading, it's important that the heading also has a border applied. Otherwise the lower cells won't align with the heading. The difference is only slight, but enough to be noticeable, especially when the cell borders and heading are different colours.

A range of cells with the top row merged, all cells with borders added

Pseudo borders

The border thickness that sheets give us, may not be enough to satisfy our needs. What I'm about to show you has limited uses, and best applied when the gridlines are turned off. Here's an example of what I mean:

A range of cells with the a narrow left column with fill colour added to look like a thick border. No gridlines showing

In the image below I've left the gridlines on. Now you can see I've narrowed the column to the left and added a fill colour to the cells.

A range of cells with the a narrow left column with fill colour added to look like a thick border. Column headings and gridlines showing