How to Insert Arrows in Excel (5 Easy Ways)

Whenever I work on a lengthy report that I need to forward to someone for review, I usually look for ways to highlight sections in the report that require attention.

I used to add cell colors like yellow to do this. But then, some reports already have cell colors in them, so adding more would be too much. That’s when I thought of using arrows instead.

Adding arrows in a report has a lot of use. You can use it to:

  • Immediately shift your audience’s focus to a particular section in the report.
  • Show the data trend, whether it’s going up, down, or steady.
  • Present a flow within the worksheet.

There are plenty of ways to insert arrows in Excel. I’ll go over them one by one.

1. Arrow as a Symbol

With this method, we will add the arrow inside the cell.

1. Select the cell where you would like to add the arrow.

Select the cell where you would like to add the arrow.

2. From the Insert tab, click on Symbols >> Symbol.

Steps to access Symbols in Excel

3. In the Symbol menu, select the arrow you prefer to use and click Insert.

In the Symbol menu, select the arrow you prefer to use and click Insert.

4. And that’s it! You now have an arrow inside your selected cell.

Sample output after inserting an arrow symbol in cell.

You can add text before or after the arrow to mention, for example, an instruction. 

Sample cell with a text and arrow symbol

If you want to add the same arrow to other cells, you can repeat the same steps or simply copy the cell with the arrow and paste it wherever needed.

Aside from arrows, you can also add these symbols in Excel (whichever is applicable):

2. Insert an Arrow using the Wingdings 3 Font

This method is practically the same as the first one, except now, we’re going to use the Wingdings 3 font to insert the arrows.

If you don’t know yet, Wingdings is a font style that only displays symbols. Each time you type a character on your keyboard, the characters are converted into symbols. To insert arrows using Wingdings 3, you only need to remember these four characters:

ArrowCharacter to TypeDescription
(pointing left)!Exclamation point
(pointing right)Double quotes
(pointing up)#Number sign or hash sign
(pointing down)$Dollar sign

1. On a blank cell, type the character that is equivalent to the arrow you intend to add.

I prefer adding all four of them, one for each cell, so I can easily copy and paste the arrow I need.

Four cells each containing a character that corresponds to an arrow in Wingdings 3

After typing the characters, select all the cells.

2. From the Home tab, go to the Font section and select Wingdings 3.

Steps to change font to Wingdings 3

3. And that’s it! You now have Wingding 3 arrows inside your cells.

Sample output after changing selected cells' font to Wingdings 3

To add more arrows, you could repeat the same steps, or you could simply copy and paste existing cells with arrows.

3. Arrow as a Shape in Excel

Inserting an arrow as a shape is probably everyone’s default go-to approach when asked to add arrows in Excel.

It’s a simple drag-and-drop method, and you are free to change the arrow’s size, color, and other formats.

The only downside of this approach is that if there are changes to the arrangement of the data, you will need to move the arrows one by one to have them point again to the same cells.

So as much as possible, it would be best to have your data format finalized before adding these arrow shapes. Doing so will save you from doing the menial task of dragging the arrows one by one to wherever they should be.

To insert an arrow shape:

1. From the Insert Tab, click on Illustrations >> Shapes.

Steps to add an arrow shape

As you can see, there are a lot of arrow shapes that you can choose.

  • In the Lines section, there are thin arrows — some are in straight lines, while some are curved.
  • In the Block Arrows section, you’ll see thick arrow shapes in varying designs.

2. Click your desired arrow type, then click anywhere on the sheet to add it.

The arrow shape that you have selected should appear.

Sample output after inserting an arrow

Use the dots beside the shape to resize it. Use the revolving arrow on top to shift where you want the arrow to point.

You can change the color of the shape and its borders. Be creative and play around with it. 

Sample output after chaging the format of the arrows

If you’re happy with the arrow and want to create copies of it, you can do so by copying and pasting the shape.

4. Arrow as a Conditional Formatting

If you’re looking for a way to add arrows in a dataset to show whether the numbers meet your targets or not, then this method is for you.

1. Select the group of cells to which you would like to add the arrows.

This group of cells should contain numbers and not text.

Select group of cells to add the arrows to.

2. From the Home tab, go to Conditional Formatting >> Icon Sets.

Steps to add arrows on cells using Conditional Formatting

Select your preferred arrow from the Directional section.

Notice that you have the option to add 3, 4, or 5 arrows.

The number of arrows corresponds to the number of conditions you can add as the basis for these arrows.

3. Once you have selected the arrow type you would like to use, you will immediately see the arrows added inside the cells.

Sample output after adding arrows in cells as Icon Sets (Conditional Formatting)

Next, we will configure the default conditions set for these arrows.

4. While the same cells are selected, go to Conditional Formatting >> Manage Rules.

5. The Conditional Formatting Rules Manager will appear.

From the list of rules, select the one that we just added and click Edit Rule.

Steps to edit recently added Conditional Formatting

6. The Edit Formatting Rule menu will appear.

The "Edit Formatting Rule" menu showing the default rules applied for an Icon Set

There you will see the default rules applied. Feel free to update the Value or the Type fields. Make the necessary adjustments to the rules so that each type of arrow will appear based on the number range you specify.

Once done, click OK. And that’s it! You’re all set.

This conditional formatting can also be applied to another cell if you want or the same formatting is needed.

5. Insert Arrows in a Column Chart

This method is for those who want to change the columns in their charts into arrows.

1. Set up your column chart.

Set up the column chart.

2. Insert an arrow shape and format it however you like.

I suggest you choose from the block arrows — the ones with thicker arrow shapes so you can easily see them in the charts. 

Sample arrow shapes

In my example above, note that I have added two arrows in different colors. You can do the same if you plan to have multiple arrows in your chart.

3. Select the arrow you want to add to the chart and press CTRL + C to copy.

Select the arrow shape that you intend to add in the column chart

4. Next, go to the chart and select the data series inside the chart where you would like to add the arrow.

Select all the data series if you want to change all columns with the same arrow. 

How the chart looks like after selecting all data series

Select the data series one-by-one if you want alternating arrows within the chart.

How the chart looks like after selecting one data series

5. Once you have selected the desired columns to change into arrows, press CTRL + V to paste.

Sample output after pasting the arrow to all data series in column chart

And that’s it! The columns in your chart should now be converted into arrows.

If you want to add a different arrow, repeat steps 3 to 5, but this time, select one data series at a time.

Sample column chart with varying arrows

If you want to, you can adjust the gap width to increase the size of the arrows. And that’s it!


Arrows have a lot of uses in Excel. It can be used to shift your readers’ attention to a particular section in the report. It can also help your readers understand how your numbers are compared to the target set – whether they went up, down, or steady. It can also be used to show the flow within your sheet.

No matter what your purpose for the arrow is, I hope the methods described above can help you achieve what you’re trying to do in your workbook.

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