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In Microsoft Excel 2010, when I insert a chart with multiple data series (or a pie chart), each series (or slice) is automatically given a colour. My 2 questions are:

  1. What is the formula used to generate these automatic colours?

  2. Can I append a row or column of colour values in hex format (e.g. #ff9900 for orange) to the data, so that their respective graphs are appropriately coloured? Bonus points Even better if I can also specify the marker colour, shape, size, etc.

Are the answers the same for other versions of Excel?

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  1. The first six series will be colored with the first six accent colors of the current theme. The next six series will be colored with a slightly lighter shade of these accent colors. The next six series will be colored with another slightly lighter shade of these accent colors. If you have more than 18 series in a chart, you should consider a different approach for your data visualisation, because it will be pretty hard to read and understand.

  2. Using just the ribbon and the user interface, you can only manually format the chart elements. Using VBA you can set a chart element's color to a value that is represented as a hex value in a cell, but you would need to learn how to write VBA code for charts. It has a learning curve.

The answers are not the same for other versions of Excel. Office 2007 introduced themes and a completely new way of handling colors. Before that, there was a limited palette of 56 or so colors only. Excel 2013 uses the same principles (i.e. theme colors), but a different approach to apply them to charts (6 accents, then 6 darker accents, then 6 lighter accents, ...)

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