Three ways to add color to numbers in a Word numbered list

You can color only the numbers on a numbered list to add some fun or highlight a serious item in your Microsoft Word document.

Image: PixelMe/Shutterstock

It is easy to create numbered lists in Word. Click the Numbering option on the Paragraph tab. Word will then add a number consecutively to each item of the list. Although there are many things you can do with this list, it’s easiest to just color the numbers apart from the text. This article will show you how to color numbers using three different methods.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every Excel expert should know (TechRepublic).

Microsoft 365 was used by me on Windows 10 64 bit. But you can use previous versions. Download the demo.docx or.docx files. Or, you can quickly create your own list. Word Online does not support this technique.

How to add numbers in Word

A simple and concise list is needed for demonstration purposes. You can save time by downloading the demo files or creating your own list. I’ll use this fun list. Figure A. Select the list, then click Numbering in Paragraph group. Don’t worry if the number format is a bit different; this option is sticky—it remembers the last number format and uses the same one. You don’t have your numbers match. However, if you wish them to match click on the Numbering dropdown. Now that you have a number list, it’s time for the color.

Figure A


  We’ll add numbers and then add color to only the numbers.

1. Define a brand new format

Word supports a number format, so it is simple to add color to numbers only. It matches the text by default but you can change it. First, select the list; Word won’t highlight the numbers, though—that’s normal. You can colorize the numbers by following these steps:

  1. Once you have selected the list, click on the Numbering dropdown. Click Define New Format to open the dropdown.
  2. This dialog allows you to change common formats for numbers. These won’t be modified. Instead, click Font.
  3. The next dialog allows you to change the font color only for numbers. We are defining a number format. Select red (or other colors) in the Font Color dialog. Figure B.
  4. Click OK twice to return the document and to see the brightly colored numbers. Figure C.

Figure B


  Choose a festive color for the numbers.

Figure C


  Only the numbers are red because we changed the number format.

Once you’ve created the new format it will be visible in the Numbering Dropdown. Figure DYou won’t need to do this again. There is another way.

Figure D


  The format is available with a quick click.

2. Use a font colour

You don’t need a new format for the numbers if you don’t plan on using the colored numbers again. The advantage of doing so is that the format—the colored numbers—are available in the Numbering dropdown. However, there’s another way and it’s much quicker.

  1. Double-click any number in this list. This will highlight only the numbers as shown in Figure E.
  2. Select a color from the Palette by clicking the Font Color dropdown in the Font group. As you can see in the image, I chose to use green. Figure F.

Figure E


  Double-click any number in the list.

Figure F


  Choose another color from the Font Color dropdown.

As we mentioned, the numbering dropdown will not have the green numbers format. It’s possible to color the numbers in a different way, but it requires a little more effort.

SEE: Office 365: A guide for tech and business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

3. Alternate colors

All numbers have been formatted with the same color so far. Let’s say you want one or more numbers in a different colour. You will need a clean list in this instance, so you can remove all numbers. Click Show/Hide in Paragraph group. The paragraph marks will be used to assign different colors to numbers.

  1. Then, click on the paragraph mark at or near the end of the first item.
  2. Click on the Font Color dropdown to choose Red.
  3. Choose the second item’s paramark and choose Green as shown in Figure G. You will notice that the chosen color takes over the paragraph marks.
  4. Continue to alternate red and green until each paragraph mark is formatted as shown in Figure H.

Figure G


  Choose a color from the Font Color dropdown.

Figure H


  Format each paragraph mark.  

Now, you can create the list. Click on the numbering option in Paragraph to create the list.. Figure I shows the results—kind of cool and fun! To hide the paragraph marks, click Show/Hide. You can also add the numbers to color the paragraph markers.

Figure I


When applying color to more serious content, you might color the number for only one item—something that you want to stand out. Bullet points can be colored as in Figure J. In this example, you would simply click Bullets. The formatting is already in place, so the change can be made immediately. You can start from scratch using bullets by selecting the list, then choosing Define New Bullet from Bullets dropdown.

Figure J


  You can quickly switch to bullets. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the numbering feature is sticky—I mentioned this before. You might find the experience frustrating if your hands are busy moving around. It is important to have a format.  

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