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What Is Format Painter & When Should You Use It?

What Is Format Painter?

This is a feature in Microsoft Office 365 that many don’t know about. It’s very useful but underutilized. So, what does Format Painter do? We’ll tell you here, and once we do, you’ll find it as helpful as we do.

When Should You Use Format Painter?

Whenever you want to use the same formatting you created in one document and apply it to another. When I say formatting, I mean things like the color, font type, font size, and border style. Think of this a copying and pasting but for your format types.

How Do You Use Format Painter?

The other day I created an eBook about Office 365 to share with my staff. There are so many great features that I wanted them to take advantage of. The eBook was pretty long so I developed a Table of Contents they could refer to.

The style was simple, but I wanted to make a few changes to make it easier to read. I bolded the Chapter Heading to make it stand out.

To keep a uniformed format throughout the Table of Contents, I needed to do the same with the other chapter headings. Instead of going through the TOC and doing this one by one, I used Format Painter.

Here’s how:

I highlighted the copy I wanted to use. (Chapter 1)

Next, in the Home tab, I clicked on the Format Painter option.

Next, I highlighted the next Chapter Heading that I wanted to format (Chapter 2).

You’ll notice here that my cursor turned into a paintbrush. This is the Format Painter paintbrush.

I took the paintbrush and brushed over the Chapter 2 line. When I did the Chapter Heading style changed to what I had set for Chapter

1. It automatically changed the format and not the text.

Once I did this, the Format Painter turned off. But I wanted to copy the Section Headings format throughout my Table of Contents.

How Do You Get Format Painter To Stay On?

Here’s what I did:

After copying the subject header format that I wanted to reproduce, I double-clicked on the Subject Headers that I wanted to apply the formatting to. I continued highlighting the Subject Headers throughout the Table of Contents and double-clicked them.

This kept the Format Painter on. (Another way to keep the Format Painter on is to click the Format Painter button on the toolbar. But, this is much more cumbersome and time-consuming than double-clicking.)


After I was finished formatting the Sections, I turned off Format Painter by pressing ESC. The paintbrush disappeared telling me that I was no longer using Format Painter. Pretty cool, right?

Did You Know That You Can Use Format Painter In Other Office 365 Microsoft Applications?

I was working in Word above. Just like I copied formats over in Word for Microsoft Office 365, I can use it other applications like Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Keynote, Pages, Publisher, Gmail and more.

Just like I did above:

  • Choose the text, picture, shape or Excel cell that contains the formatting you want to copy over.
  • Go to Home and click on Format Painter. The cursor will change to a paintbrush.
  • Click and drag the paintbrush over the section you want to format.
  • Release the mouse button, and the formatting will be changed.

How Do You Remove Formatting?

If you decide you no longer want the new formatting, you can remove it. Use the Clear Formatting function in your toolbar. Click to turn it on and select the copy you want to change. The formatting will now be returned to the original style you created.

What If You Want To Clear All The Formatting From A Document?

  • Select all the text in the document.
  • If you’re using Word go to the Edit Menu. Click Clear and then Clear Formatting.
  • To do this in PowerPoint, go to the Home tab, and in the Font, Group click on Clear All Formatting.
  • In Excel, go to the Home tab, and from the Editing group, click the Arrow next to the Clear button. Next, click Clear Formats to return to the default format for the selected cells.

With Format Painter and a little practice, you can save so much time and frustration when copying styles and formatting. Give it a try and you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Do you have questions about Format Painter?

Or maybe you have questions about other tools in Microsoft Office 365?

Contact the team at Intivix in San Francisco. We’re always happy to help.