How to fill table cells in Microsoft Word

Courtesy of Microsoft

Tables enable users of Microsoft Word to organize the presentation of their documents. The tables may have borders and present statistics, or they may be invisible and keep different elements, such as text and pictures, in a specific part of the page. Microsoft offers three different methods to place a background in the cells of a table. This is a process termed “filling.”


Word offers three different methods for filling cells in a table. One is accessed from a right-click menu, another is a quick pick display and the third method gives a wide range of shades from a colour picker palette. The easiest way to understand these methods is to carry out an example cell fill for each.

One cell

You can fill the background of an individual cell. Place the cursor inside the cell you want to fill. The menu bar at the top of Word will change to show “Table tools” options. Click on the “Design” menu. Select “Shading” from the "Table design" menu. A drop-down colour picker will appear. Click on a square with the background colour you want for the cell. That cell now has that colour as a background. This does not block the cell from being written in. Any text you put in the cell will appear in front of the colour you selected.

Rows and columns

Click in front of a row in the table. That row will become highlighted. To select a column, click above the column you want to fill. Hover over the highlighted row or column and click the right mouse button. A menu will appear alongside the mouse pointer. Select “Borders and shading” from the right-click menu. A window will appear. Select a colour from the first pick list. You can also elect a degree of transparency from the second pick list and a second colour to mix in from a third pick list. Click on "OK" to exit this window and see the row or column you selected filled.


Move the mouse pointer across the table. You will see a box with a cross in it appear in the top left hand corner of the table. Click on this symbol to fill all the cells in the table. This brings up the “Table tools” options. Select the “Design” menu. Click on “Shading” in this menu. A drop-down menu will appear. Select “More colours” from this menu. A pop-up window will appear. This window contains two tabs. One allows you to pick from a gradually altering pallet of colours, the other contains more clearly defined hexagons of colour. Click on a colour and select the “OK” button. All of the cells in the table will have changed to your selected colour.

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