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When applying conditional formatting to a group of cells in Excel, you’re usually limited to the basic built-in icon sets. In other words: you can’t add icons yourself.

Still, if you approach things creatively, you can set up something with a high visual impact. Have a look at the example below:

How to use your own icons in conditional formatting

Open the Windows Character Map. (Type CHARMAP in the search field next to the Windows button at the bottom of your screen to find it.) Select the Webdings, Wingdings, Wingdings 2, or Wingdings 3 font.

Choose the symbol you want to use and click Select.

If you want to create several Excel icons, select the other symbols as well, then click Copy.

Go to Excel and paste the copied symbols in a cell.

The three icons shown above will appear in Excel as follows:

Change the cell font. In this example, I’m using Wingdings.

You’ll see the correct icons now:

We now know which letters correspond to the selected symbols.

In this example, J matches a smiley face and L matches a sad face. Note that these characters are case-sensitive.

Next, write an IFfunction to make the cell show the letter J, K, or L.

Change the font to Wingdings and centre the cells.

You can now apply conditional formatting to turn the icon’s background red or green. The result depends on the value in the column next to it.

The end result looks like this:

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