How to Paste Excel Chart Formatting

by Matthew Kuo on April 13, 2013

in Excel, Visual Design

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Pasting chart formats is an Excel function that’s somewhat un-intuitive to find and therefore underutilized.  One of the main reasons that people don’t bother improving the formatting of their charts is because of the time it takes to make these adjustments.  By using the paste format function for your charts, you can save yourself time and while still improving the Visual Design of your workbook.

The Intuitive Approach

Suppose I have two charts:  one where I’ve made all the necessary formatting adjustments and one that hasn’t been touched – it’s still in the default Excel chart format.



If I click on the chart that I’ve already formatted, hit CTRL + C, click on the unformatted chart, and hit CTRL + V, this is the output I get:


The formatting has transferred over, but we’ve also added the data series from the original chart to the destination chart.

How to Paste Chart Formats

The trick to doing this properly is that you need to use Excel’s Paste Special menu before pasting the chart.  Interestingly, you can’t get this menu by right clicking your destination chart.  Start with the same three steps above:

Select formatted chart
Hit CTRL + C
Select unformatted chart

Now click on the down arrow below the large Paste button, which appears in the upper left hand corner of the home tab of the ribbon.  Then click on Paste Special.


Once you’ve done so, you’ll be able to access the Paste Special menu.  Since we only want the chart’s formatting to paste over, we select “Formats”.  (Please note that you can also access the Paste Special Menu by hitting CTRL + ALT + V)


After you hit Enter, your new formatting should be pasted over.


You can also paste over your chart formatting using just shortcut keys:

Select formatted chart
Hit CTRL + C
Select unformatted chart
Hit ALT – E – S – T – Enter

Paste Format Limitations

Pasting over chart formats is particularly useful when you have two similar charts.  However, there are two specific scenarios where you’ll still have to make additional adjustments even after you’ve pasted over the formatting:

  1. Your destination chart has fewer data series than your original chart; the additional data series will just be in default Excel formatting
  2. You’ve made adjustments to your original axis scale (max, min, major unit, or minor unit); the scaling adjustments will paste over and it’s possible that they aren’t appropriate for your new chart

Be cognizant of these differences any time you use the Paste Format function between charts.  The fact that these limitations exist makes it less useful to just save formatted versions of all your charts (and then just pasting them over whenever you build a new chart).  However, if you tend to format your charts the same way every time, this is definitely an approach to consider.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jihunlee October 14, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Thank you so is great information.


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