Tables are a great way to organize and present data in Google Docs. However, sometimes table borders can be distracting and take away from the information in the table. Making table borders invisible is an easy way to clean up the look of a table while still being able to use the structure and alignment functionality that tables provide.
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn two methods for making table borders invisible in Google Docs:
- Using the Table Properties menu
- Changing border colors to match the background
Before we get started, make sure you have:
- A Google account
- The Google Docs app opened
- A document open with a table inserted that you want to edit
If you don’t already have a table in your document, you can easily add one by going to Insert > Table on the Google Docs toolbar.
Method 1: Using the Table Properties Menu
The easiest way to make table borders invisible is by using the Table Properties menu:
Step 1: Select the table
Click anywhere in the table to select it. This will highlight the full table with a box around the outer borders.
Step 2: Open the Table Properties menu
Right click the table and choose “Table Properties” from the pop-up menu. Alternatively, go to the Table tab on the toolbar and select Table Properties.
Table properties menu
Step 3: Set border width to 0 pt
In the Table Properties sidebar that opens, click on the Border color box to expand the border settings. Set the Table border width to 0 pt to remove the borders.
Set border width to 0 pt
The table borders will now disappear. You can still see the table structure highlighted when you select it, but the borders will not be visible on the published document.
Method 2: Matching Border Color to Background
If you want more granular control to keep borders around part of the table, another option is to set border colors to match the background:
Step 1: Select the cells to adjust
Click and drag to highlight the cells where you want to remove borders. To select the entire table quickly, choose the Select Table option in the Table tab.
Step 2: Open the border color menu
Select the border color box from the toolbar (it looks like a square divided into four sections).
Border color toolbar icon
Step 3: Choose background fill color
In the Border color menu, choose the Background color fill option to match the border color to the background.
Match border color to background
The borders around the selected cells will now blend into the background, making them invisible.
When Table Borders Seem to Reappear
Sometimes you might find invisible table borders suddenly reappearing. This can happen when:
- Adding rows or columns to the table
- Adjusting column widths
- Changing the cell alignment
Borders can come back because these types of table modifications reset some of the table formatting.
If borders reappear unexpectedly, just repeat the steps above to quickly make them invisible again.
Customizing Partially Invisible Borders
When you want a clean look with some borders still visible (e.g. to delineate header rows or total columns), you can customize which borders are visible:
- To remove only the top border, select the top row and hide only the top border color
- To remove only the left border, select the left column and hide only the left border color
- To remove internal gridlines, select the whole table and hide the inner vertical and horizontal border colors
This allows you to format the table layout exactly how you need it.
Improving Accessibility with Invisible Table Borders
Making borders invisible is not only for aesthetics. It can also improve accessibility for visually impaired readers using screen readers:
- Screen readers read all lines and borders in a table by default, which can be confusing
- Removing borders helps screen readers flow better from cell to cell
- Use strong header rows and properly aligned columns to keep tables understandable without visible borders
By optimizing tables for both sighted and visually impaired users, you can improve comprehension for everyone.
When to Avoid Invisible Borders
There are a few instances where invisible borders are not recommended:
- At the beginning of learning tables: Keeping borders visible helps see the table structure
- For very complex data: Borders may help differentiate information
- When printing: Borders can guide the eye on paper
- If required for assignment formatting rules: Don’t break instructor guidelines
Use your best judgment for when visible borders are still beneficial. Just know the invisible border options are there when you need them.
Troubleshooting Invisible Table Border Issues
Here are some common issues that can come up with invisible table borders and how to fix them:
Borders seem to keep reappearing
- As covered above, this is typically from modifications like adding rows. Just redo the border color settings.
Can’t get the borders to disappear
- Make sure border width is set to 0 pt in Table Properties
- Try matching the border color to the background fill color instead
Parts of the border remain visible
- Select the specific cells where borders are still showing
- Make sure the problem borders (top, bottom, left, right) are set invisible in the border color menu
Screen readers still reading borders
- Double check no borders are set with a visible width (must be 0 pt)
- Verify the borders are fully invisible on screen for sighted users
Instructor requires visible borders
- Apologize and add the borders back in
- Request clarification on specific border requirements going forward
If you continue having issues removing borders, provide screenshots of your full table properties and border color settings to get troubleshooting help.
Next Steps with Invisible Table Borders
Now that you know how to make table borders invisible in Google Docs, here are some next steps to take:
- Apply borders similarly in Google Sheets for clean spreadsheet layouts
- Create Excel tables with invisible borders using the same concepts
- Experiment with partial border visibility for header emphasis
- Refactor existing tables and see if removing borders improves readability
- Review accessibility guides to make sure your tables are screen reader friendly
Removing borders is just one part of creating accessible, easy-to-scan tables. But it’s an impactful one. Use this new skill to better showcase your data to both visual and nonvisual audiences.