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We all know how to do something well — write a post that teaches readers how to do something you know and/or love to do.

Not a lot of computer teachers would say that Excel is their favorite program to teach, but I love the depth of the program and all of its possibilities. So can students if they’re taught the fun stuff along with making charts and graphs. It’s easy enough to learn the basics for that, and when they get those, they can surprise themselves with the beautiful and effective graphs they produce.

Another use that’s just fun, but does incorporate the learning some basic Excel tools, is to use it artistically. Bet you never thought of it that way, but here goes:

Think first of a quilt. The patterns used in those are well-suited to making a design in Excel. I made two examples of quilts, and note that planning has to go into each, especially the one where the pattern is repeated — how many rows and columns should the drawing have? …what size should the cells be? (This is also a lesson in symmetry.) You could use very tiny cells, zoom in while working on them, then end up with almost a pointillist piece of artwork — and a demonstration of how pixels work, too. I didn’t go that small. I kept it simple. Here are my two “quilts”:


Just for the fun of it, I copied the images into Photoshop and put a couple of effects on the second one:


To do these, you:
1. Open Excel, choose File-New
2. Highlight a large group of cells including the numbers and letters at the top and side, choose Format-Row-Height and change number (the simple quilt was .5); Format-Column-Width and change number (mine was .5). Now all the cells should be square.
3. Click on Format-Page. Choose Letter, and/or 8.5 x 11 inches. When you go back to the spreadsheet there will be lines showing what space a page occupies. You must stay within the space of one page. If you want more squares than .5 allows, change to a smaller number for the row height and column width until you get what you want.
4. Click on a cell. Then go to the fill icon (a little bucket) and select a color. To select multiple cells to be the same color, hold down the CTL key as you click on cells, until you have selected all the cells of the same color, the click on fill, and choose color.
5. Notice that if you click on a cell that has a color in it, the cell outline will darken, and a little “handle” appears in the lower right-hand corner. If you click on that, and pull in any direction, the color will fill the cells you have pulled across. This only works in one direction at a time. Click into an unoccupied area on the page (to deselect), then repeat the process.
6. Obviously, symmetry plays a role in how well your finished design works out; think about that when you choose the number of cells you need across and down.
7. By selecting Format-Cell, you can decide whether or not you want borders on each cell, or just around the whole picture — or none at all. Several sizes and patterns are shown.
8. Finally, you can highlight all cells, right-click on mouse, select copy, and then paste your design into a Word document, or into a photo program. Even the simplest programs will allow you to crop or change the size of the design.
9. For the cacti, I had to choose more cells individually, but did do a lot of color dragging. You’ll not that when I added an effect in Photoshop, the design looks more like “art” (of the simplest kind!).


This last illustration shows how the pattern looks simply pasted into a word document. (I did put a Photoshop Plastic Wrap effect on it before I copied and pasted it.).
Kids love making patterns, and with a little help in setting the sizes and planning their project, can learn to enjoy Excel, just for the fun of it!