How to choose the best colors for your data charts

I used to manually select my color schemes with trial and error, but these days, there are a lot of tools to help you pick colors for your charts. The motivation for most of them is to help you visualize your data in a way that is perceptually correct. That is, perceived differences translated between your eyeballs and your brain match the actual quantitative differences.

While there are new tools released fairly often, I tend to stick to these four simple and quick ones. Here they are by purpose.

When you’re in a rush but need something better than defaults

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

ColorBrewer is the old standby. It’s backed by research from Cynthia Brewer and Mark Harrower, and this tool was developed by AxisMaps to make the color schemes more accessible. There are a fixed number of color schemes and several options to choose from, which lets you accommodate various datasets. Select between sequential, diverging, or qualitative data. Multi-hue or single hue. Number of classes.

ColorBrewer color schemes are also baked into many packages and tools, like d3.js and R.

When you have more time to browse

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

The Colorpicker for Data tool by Tristen Brown is straightforward and kind of fun to play with. You select two endpoints and the tool spits out colors that are visually equal in distance.

It’s as quick to use as ColorBrewer, but you might catch yourself finicking more than you wanted with the endless color choices.

When you need new color ideas

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

I use 0to255 to look at palettes of random colors. Maybe I’m looking for a new color scheme or trying to rework an existing one.

When you select a specific color, the tool provides a gradient of light to dark, and from there you can copy and paste. I’m almost certain there’s a better tool option by now. (It still requires Flash to copy hex colors.) But I’ve been using it for years, and well, if it ain’t broke.

When you need to match a color on your screen

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

I use Sip for Mac to grab hex color codes from my screen. Sometimes I want to copy an existing color scheme and I’m too lazy to dig up old code, or I want to use a logo color or some color scheme related to a dataset’s subject matter.

You just point and click at the color you want, and Sip copies the hex color code.

There are a lot of other tools out there. Many of them are research-based and some promise to do things automatically for you, but I’ve found most to be lacking in usability. I’m looking for quick and responsive to input so that I can see various schemes right away, and these four always check those boxes for me.

If you’re interested in what drives many color-picking tools, I’d check out Gregor Aisch’s article on equidistant colors. You might also like Lisa Charlotte Rost’s friendly guide to colors.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Data Visualization Tips

Data visualization tips help you tell a story with a chart, graph, diagram, or picture. And guide you with the best representation for your data on the point you want to make.

Here are 10 data visualization tips to choose the best type of chart for your data.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Column Chart

Column charts are a good way to show change over time because it’s easy to compare column lengths. Like bar charts, column charts can be used to plot both nominal data and ordinal data, and they can be used instead of a pie chart to plot data with a part-to-whole relationship. Data visualization tips on column charts are they work best where data points are limited (i.e. 12 months, 4 quarters, etc.). With more data points, you can switch to a line graph. The above chart is an effective use of a column chart to show a company’s year-to-date profitability by plotting monthly sales against expenses,

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Bar Chart

Bar charts are used to compare things between different groups or to track changes over time. However, when trying to measure change over time, bar graphs are best when the changes are larger. A bar chart is a particularly telling way to display data when there is a group that has a half-dozen of more entries. Like the above bar chart that shows the crime rate in various U.S. cities.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Line Chart Data Visualization Tips

Line charts are best when you want to show how the value of something changes over time, or compare how several things change over time relative to each other. If you are looking to show change “over time” or a “trend,” that’s your clue to use a line chart for your data. Line charts are common and effective charts because they are simple, easy to understand, and efficient. Line charts are great for 1) comparing lots of data all at once, 2) showing changes and trends over time, 3) including important context and annotation, and 4) displaying forecast data and uncertainty. Like the line chart in the example for specific types of wildlife.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Dual Axis Chart

A dual axis chart is a great way to easily illustrate the relationship between two different variables. They illustrate a lot of information with limited space and allow you to discover trends you may have otherwise missed if you’re switching between graphs. You can display two numerical values with different units with a dual axis chart as well. Data visualization tips are don’t overwhelm a dual axis chart with too much data. Keep it simple to the story you want the data to tell. Like the above chart that shows the trend in square footage prices for homes versus rentals in California.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Area Chart

An area chart displays graphically quantitative data. It is based on the line chart. The area between axis and line is commonly emphasized with colors, textures, and hatchings. Commonly one compares two or more quantities with an area chart. Because an area chart has a stronger visual emphasis than a line chart, it is best to use an area chart when there are fewer data comparisons. Like the comparison of U.S. versus Russian nuclear stockpile over time shown above.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Pie Chart Data Visualization Tips

Pie charts are generally used to show percentage or proportional data and usually, the percentage represented by each category is provided next to the corresponding slice of pie. Pie charts are good for displaying data for around 6 categories or fewer. A pie chart is best used when trying to work out the composition of something. If you have categorical data then using a pie chart would work really well as each slice can represent a different category. Like the above example.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Scatter Chart

A scatter chart works best when comparing large numbers of data points without regard to time. This is a very powerful type of chart and good when you are trying to show the relationship between two variables (x and y-axis). The type of data used in this chart is generally statistical or scientific. And can suggest various kinds of correlation between the variables. In this type of chart, the closer the plotted points are to making a straight line the stronger the relationship is between the two variables. Like the above correlation between height and weight in a broad range of children.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Waterfall Chart

A waterfall chart shows a running total as values are added or subtracted. It is especially useful for understanding or explaining the gradual transition in the quantitative value of an entity. Data visualization tips on a waterfall chart are they are often used to show changes in revenue or profit between two time periods. Like the above chart that illustrates how different factors contribute to a final result.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Funnel Chart Data Visualization Tips

The Funnel chart is used to visualize the progressive reduction of data as it passes from one phase to another. Funnel charts are often used to represent stages in a sales process to show results or revenue for each stage. This type of chart can also be useful in identifying potential problem areas in an organization’s processes. Above is a funnel chart that shows website conversion activities.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Heat Map

A heat map is a graphical representation of data that uses a system of color-coding to represent different values. Heat maps are used in various forms of analytics but are most commonly used with maps or to show user behavior on a website or specific web pages. The example above shows gas prices across the U.S. using heat map technology.

Do these data visualization tools help you to choose the best type of chart for your data? Does your organization need help using charts data to tell your story?

Create Beautiful Charts & Infographics Get started
29.03.2016 by Marisa Krystian

Color can grab people’s attention, set the mood, and influence perception. There are multiple free tools online to help you discover great color palettes, but finding the right colors for your data visualizations can be tough.

Using color effectively can enhance the way your charts and graphs communicate data. That being said, color used incorrectly can muddle or confuse the viewer. Let’s go over basic color theory and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of charting with color.

Color Variables

We tend to refer to colors by their name, but color perception is more complicated than that. Some colors are lighter, darker, richer, more vibrant. Our brain views color in terms of lightness (black to white), saturation (dull to bright), and hue (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.)

These three variables, originally defined by Albert H. Munsell, are the foundation of any color theory system based on human perception. Now it’s up to you to effectively use color to help illuminate your data.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

  • Use one color to represent continuous data – Representing continuous data and ranges by varying the saturation or value of a color makes you chart straightforward and easy to read.
    • Use contrasting colors for comparisons – Contrasting colors help the viewer differentiate the data quickly (e.g. profits and losses).
  • Use colors that appear in nature – People respond better to colors they are familiar with; colors that appear naturally in the world around them.
    • Use branded colors for marketing materials or presentations – Customizing your data visualizations to match your company’s color scheme helps you align with your brand and keeps your messaging consistent. It also helps with brand recognition.
  • Use color to highlight your most important information – Color can be a great way to guide the viewer’s eye to key points on your chart. We suggest using muted colors with one bright color to bring attention to your most important information.
    • Experiment with semantic color associations – People associate certain concepts with certain colors. When colors are paired with the concepts that evoke them, Harvard Business Review calls these “semantically resonant color choices.” The charts below showing fruit sales are identical except for their assigned color scheme. The right-hand chart has been assigned semantically resonant colors and according to HBR’s research, people understood the chart faster.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

    • Consider the psychology of color – Different colors make people feel different things! Take this into account when picking colors for your data visualization.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

    • Pick colors that are too hard to distinguish – It’s important for your viewer to be able to understand the data you are presenting. If they need to quickly make comparisons, the colors need to be easy to distinguish.
  • Use too many colors – Try to avoid the rainbow effect! Less is more. Make sure the colors you choose have a purpose and make your chart easier to read, not harder.
  • Forget some people are color blind – Avoid the following color combinations, which are especially hard on people who are color blind: green & red; green & brown; blue & purple; green & blue; light green & yellow; blue & grey; green & grey; green & black.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Ready to experiment with color theory and data visualization? Infogram makes it easy to select the perfect color palette for your charts. We offer pre-designed color schemes for you to explore, but you are more than welcome to select any colors you’d like.

Get data visualization tips every week:

New features, special offers, and exciting news about the world of data visualization.

Color is a powerful attribute in data visualization. In a good visualization, it can focus attention and enhance meaning and clarity. When color is used poorly, it creates clutter and confusion. Power BI has a default color palette, but it isn’t always optimal or even appropriate for many reports. Luckily, Power BI allows you to use any color that can be defined by a hex code where visuals allow colors to be changed. With so many choices, choosing a color palette can be overwhelming. Below are some tips to help you choose a good color palette for your Power BI reports.

A color palette is simply a collection of colors applied to the visual elements in your report. What we typically refer to as color is a combination of three main properties: hue (base color on the color wheel), intensity (brightness or gray-ness) and value (lightness or darkness). You can build an engaging and professional looking report with just 6 colors. It’s possible to have fewer colors or more colors, but 6 should cover many common visualization needs. If you are using more than 6 colors, you might want to check that you are optimizing engagement and cognitive load.

  1. Main color – default color on graphs
  2. Color 2 – used when multiple colors are needed in a graph or report
  3. Color 3 – used when multiple colors are needed in a graph or report and Color 2 has already been used
  4. Highlight color – a color used to highlight important data points to make them stand out from other points on the page
  5. Border color – a light color used for borders on tables and KPIs where necessary
  6. Title color – color used for visual titles and axis labels as appropriate

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

While your title and border colors don’t have to be variations of gray, gray is a practical color for these purposes when using a white background. You could also use brown, blue, purple, etc. You just want to ensure that your text color has sufficient contrast from its background and that it isn’t more intense than your data colors. I tend to make my border color a tint of the title color.

This is a good place to define a few terms. A hue is a base color without black, white, or gray added, which you might find on a basic color wheel. A shade is achieved by adding black to any pure hue, making it darker. A tint is achieve by adding white to a pure hue, making it lighter. A tone is achieved by adding gray to a pure hue, making it less saturated and more muted.

I think it’s easiest to start your color palette by choosing the main color. This could be inspired by your corporate color palette or logo, your favorite color, or a color associated with the subject matter of your report. Be aware that color has cultural meaning and conveys emotion, and you want to choose a color that conveys the appropriate tone of your report. This can get tricky, so just try to make sure you don’t choose a main color that has a lot of cognitive dissonance with your subject. For instance, if you are creating a report for a U.S. audience about our gun violence problem, you probably wouldn’t use a light, happy, pastel green as your main color. But you could be fine using a bright red, dark blue, orange, black, or several other colors.

You will want to choose a main color that has a medium intensity. If it is too bright or too dark, you won’t have any room to use a more intense version of that color to focus attention. And since you want your main, secondary, and tertiary color to be the same intensity, it would feel as if everything on the page were yelling at you if all three colors were bold. If you are starting from a corporate color palette, be aware that most brand color palettes were designed for websites and print collateral, not data visualization. They are usually too intense or bright to serve as your main data visualization colors. But you can use a tint or tone of your corporate colors so your reports stay on brand.

Once you have chosen your main color, you need to decide what type of color scheme you would like to use. Common options include:

  • monochromatic – tints and shades of a single hue
  • complementary – colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel
  • analogous – colors that are next to each other on the color wheel
  • split complementary – a base color plus two colors that are adjacent to its complement on the color wheel
  • triadic – colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

My current favorite tool for choosing colors is ColorHexa. It provides hex colors, color schemes (as shown above), tints, shades, and tones.

Once you have made some initial color choices, test it out on a few charts to ensure you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Are all colors easily distinguishable from each other? If you were to use the main, secondary, and tertiary color in a line chart, could you easily follow the lines as they cross each other?
  • Is your color palette color blind friendly? You can use ColorHexa or Coblis to check this. It’s not always obvious when you have people with color vision deficiency in your intended audience, so it’s better to use colors that are easily distinguishable by those with red-green color blindness (deuteranomaly, deuteranopia, protanomaly, and protanopia).
  • Does your highlight color have high contrast from your other colors so it is obvious that it is being used to draw attention to a trend or data point?
  • If you are using a non-white background color, do your colors stand out sufficiently from your background?
  • When you look at your color choices, do you find the combination generally appealing, balanced, and not overly jarring? This is a bit subjective, but if you look at your colors and have a negative reaction then your audience will probably have a similar reaction.

Finally, be aware that colors display differently on different screens and surfaces. You can put a lot of time and effort into choosing the perfect colors, then share a report with someone and have it look rather different on their monitor or when viewed on a projector screen. If you can, review your colors on the equipment that your intended audience will most commonly use to make sure it looks good for them.

If you are still having trouble choosing colors, you can check out the Power BI Report Theme Gallery for some inspiration. Not every example in the gallery shows good color choices, but you can still use it to get ideas.

Once you have your color palette, you can reuse it in future reports by making a report theme. And if you aren’t a fan of manually writing JSON for your report theme, check out the Report Theme Generator from PowerBI.Tips. If you define your colors in a report theme, Power BI will create tints and shades of your colors for you, saving you the trouble of having to look them up yourself.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

If you have advice to help others choose colors, leave a comment on this post or tweet me.

Create Beautiful Charts & Infographics Get started
29.03.2016 by Marisa Krystian

Color can grab people’s attention, set the mood, and influence perception. There are multiple free tools online to help you discover great color palettes, but finding the right colors for your data visualizations can be tough.

Using color effectively can enhance the way your charts and graphs communicate data. That being said, color used incorrectly can muddle or confuse the viewer. Let’s go over basic color theory and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of charting with color.

Color Variables

We tend to refer to colors by their name, but color perception is more complicated than that. Some colors are lighter, darker, richer, more vibrant. Our brain views color in terms of lightness (black to white), saturation (dull to bright), and hue (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.)

These three variables, originally defined by Albert H. Munsell, are the foundation of any color theory system based on human perception. Now it’s up to you to effectively use color to help illuminate your data.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

  • Use one color to represent continuous data – Representing continuous data and ranges by varying the saturation or value of a color makes you chart straightforward and easy to read.
    • Use contrasting colors for comparisons – Contrasting colors help the viewer differentiate the data quickly (e.g. profits and losses).
  • Use colors that appear in nature – People respond better to colors they are familiar with; colors that appear naturally in the world around them.
    • Use branded colors for marketing materials or presentations – Customizing your data visualizations to match your company’s color scheme helps you align with your brand and keeps your messaging consistent. It also helps with brand recognition.
  • Use color to highlight your most important information – Color can be a great way to guide the viewer’s eye to key points on your chart. We suggest using muted colors with one bright color to bring attention to your most important information.
    • Experiment with semantic color associations – People associate certain concepts with certain colors. When colors are paired with the concepts that evoke them, Harvard Business Review calls these “semantically resonant color choices.” The charts below showing fruit sales are identical except for their assigned color scheme. The right-hand chart has been assigned semantically resonant colors and according to HBR’s research, people understood the chart faster.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

    • Consider the psychology of color – Different colors make people feel different things! Take this into account when picking colors for your data visualization.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

    • Pick colors that are too hard to distinguish – It’s important for your viewer to be able to understand the data you are presenting. If they need to quickly make comparisons, the colors need to be easy to distinguish.
  • Use too many colors – Try to avoid the rainbow effect! Less is more. Make sure the colors you choose have a purpose and make your chart easier to read, not harder.
  • Forget some people are color blind – Avoid the following color combinations, which are especially hard on people who are color blind: green & red; green & brown; blue & purple; green & blue; light green & yellow; blue & grey; green & grey; green & black.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Ready to experiment with color theory and data visualization? Infogram makes it easy to select the perfect color palette for your charts. We offer pre-designed color schemes for you to explore, but you are more than welcome to select any colors you’d like.

Get data visualization tips every week:

New features, special offers, and exciting news about the world of data visualization.

Updated on: 11 November 2020

It is a well known axiom that color is one of the most important components of diagramming. Whatever diagram type you do use, the utilization of a color scheme can make it either excellent or mediocre. This post will offer you a few simple but potent ways in which you could use color to great effect.

1. Color can be Used as a Differentiator

One of the main ways in which a color code can be utilized is for the purpose of differentiation. Consider an org chart, where (as an HR Manager) you want a split of the two sexes. Your organogram would look something like the example shown below.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

As you can see, this is just a simple example. But colour can also be used to differentiate various things like office locations and hierarchy on an org chart, too. The use of color may be extended to various diagram types as well. For instance, consider using different colors to show what is a process and what is a decision in a flowchart.

Creately comes with a professionally designed color palette based on themes. Even if you don’t know anything about color combinations you can create a good looking diagram by sticking to a theme.

2. Use Color to Show Intensity

Color may also be used as an excellent barometer to show the difficulty or intensity that is present in certain tasks. For instance, if you are Project Manager who is creating a flowchart, you could use various colors to generate the difficulty of certain processes. A basic example is shown below.

3. Make it a Point to Utilize Color in the right Context

One of the main things that we need to be mindful of is using color that is relevant to whatever it is we are drawing. For instance, if you take a topographic map, certain colors would have meaning i.e. brown would be indicative of land, green would be indicative of vegetation and blue would mean sea. Another example would be the color utilization to show an increase in temperature. You would have the color increasing in intensity from light orange to dark orange and subsequently red.

4. Use Color to ensure Readability

One of the main benefits of using color is that you get to ensure absolute clarity. Usually, you need to pay attention to readability. Avoid designs that have color contrasts that cannot be easily read like dark brown text on a dark brown background. An ideal example is shown below, where proper utilization of color to ensure readability is encircled in red.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

5. Use Colors from the Same Palette

While we are all for the proper use of color, remember that you can seriously draw diagrams quick and easy with Creately’s one-click styles. Each row has complementary colors, and you can go up or down to show intensity within a color. Why not try this smart app for free and see for yourself!

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

How Do You Choose Diagram Colors?

We do agree that colour per se and color combinations are inherently subjective, yet you cannot deny the fact that it is certainly something that is important and can be widely used to offer a glut of benefits from easy assimilation of information to making diagrams look real beautiful. As always, we’d be thrilled with whatever response that you may have and would encourage you to make comments on this post and/or to get in touch with us if you got any queries.

Updated on: 11 November 2020

It is a well known axiom that color is one of the most important components of diagramming. Whatever diagram type you do use, the utilization of a color scheme can make it either excellent or mediocre. This post will offer you a few simple but potent ways in which you could use color to great effect.

1. Color can be Used as a Differentiator

One of the main ways in which a color code can be utilized is for the purpose of differentiation. Consider an org chart, where (as an HR Manager) you want a split of the two sexes. Your organogram would look something like the example shown below.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

As you can see, this is just a simple example. But colour can also be used to differentiate various things like office locations and hierarchy on an org chart, too. The use of color may be extended to various diagram types as well. For instance, consider using different colors to show what is a process and what is a decision in a flowchart.

Creately comes with a professionally designed color palette based on themes. Even if you don’t know anything about color combinations you can create a good looking diagram by sticking to a theme.

2. Use Color to Show Intensity

Color may also be used as an excellent barometer to show the difficulty or intensity that is present in certain tasks. For instance, if you are Project Manager who is creating a flowchart, you could use various colors to generate the difficulty of certain processes. A basic example is shown below.

3. Make it a Point to Utilize Color in the right Context

One of the main things that we need to be mindful of is using color that is relevant to whatever it is we are drawing. For instance, if you take a topographic map, certain colors would have meaning i.e. brown would be indicative of land, green would be indicative of vegetation and blue would mean sea. Another example would be the color utilization to show an increase in temperature. You would have the color increasing in intensity from light orange to dark orange and subsequently red.

4. Use Color to ensure Readability

One of the main benefits of using color is that you get to ensure absolute clarity. Usually, you need to pay attention to readability. Avoid designs that have color contrasts that cannot be easily read like dark brown text on a dark brown background. An ideal example is shown below, where proper utilization of color to ensure readability is encircled in red.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

5. Use Colors from the Same Palette

While we are all for the proper use of color, remember that you can seriously draw diagrams quick and easy with Creately’s one-click styles. Each row has complementary colors, and you can go up or down to show intensity within a color. Why not try this smart app for free and see for yourself!

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

How Do You Choose Diagram Colors?

We do agree that colour per se and color combinations are inherently subjective, yet you cannot deny the fact that it is certainly something that is important and can be widely used to offer a glut of benefits from easy assimilation of information to making diagrams look real beautiful. As always, we’d be thrilled with whatever response that you may have and would encourage you to make comments on this post and/or to get in touch with us if you got any queries.

Statistics for Ecologists (Edition 2) Exercise 6.3

On this page you’ll find some additional notes regarding the use of colour in graphs and charts. These items did not quite make the final edit to the book itself but make a useful (I hope) addition to the topic in Chapter 6.

Colouring in: Using colour in graphs and charts:

  • Introduction
  • Using colour in Excel charts
    • Quick settings
    • Overall settings
    • Setting chart colours explicitly
  • Using colour in R plots
    • Specifying colours
    • Setting a colour palette
    • Built-in colour palettes
    • Shading lines
  • Summary

Introduction

Colour is very important in presenting data and results. Both Excel and R have a wide range of colours you can use when creating your graphs and charts (certainly more than 50 shades of gray!).

Controlling and managing the colours you display is an important element in presenting your work. With an increasing volume of work being presented via the Internet, colour is something not to take for granted. Using default colours is “easy” but for maximum impact you should think carefully about how to present the best colours for the job.

Traditional journals generally use monochrome, which you can think of as just another set of colours, but even if you are “stuck” with shades of grey you need to think carefully. Pattern filling can be an especially useful option when using monochrome.

Using colour in Excel charts

You can set colours in Excel in several ways:

  • General color can be set from the Page Layout menu, which sets overall color themes.
  • When you make a chart the Chart Tools > Design > Change Colors button allows you to “override” the general colors and set your own.
  • You can format elements in charts directly from the Chart Tools > Format
  • Right-click or double-click a chart element directly.

When you set a colour explicitly you can also incorporate fill effects, with Pattern Fill being the most useful.

Quick settings in Excel charts

Whenever you make a chart in Excel it will have a default colour palette. You can alter the general colour theme for an existing chart from the Chart Tools menu. The exact option you select depends on the version of Excel you use e.g.

  • 2013: Chart Tools > Design > Change Colors button.
  • 2010: Chart Tools > Design > Chart Styles section.

This gives you a few options for altering the general flavour of the chart.

The colour options you get depend on the overall color theme that’s in operation; you set this from the Page Layout menu.

When publishing internal and external reports for your business it is important to be consistent with your branding standards by using the same color schemes and logos. Microsoft Power BI it a great tool for creating and publishing dynamic and interactive reports and it allows for the customization of colors to match your brand standards. This blog will provide instructions on how to use Microsoft Power BI to create reports you are proud to share.

Creating a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) File

Power BI allows for a report creator to set the colors used on each visualization manually, and although this creates the desired result, it is time consuming. To set custom report color themes quickly and easily in Power BI that can be used repeatedly, you will need to enable the color themes option and create a simple JSON file of your preferred colors. If you haven’t worked with JSON before or don’t have experience writing code, have no fear; anyone can write the JSON needed for this simple customization.

Enable Custom Report Themes

First, you need to enable custom report themes in Power BI using the desktop version of Power BI. Open a new Power BI desktop file. Select the File menu, click Options and settings, and select Options.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts

Figure 1 – Power BI File Menu

The Options window will open. In the Options window, on the left you will see a column of settings under the Global heading. Select Preview features. In the Preview features window, check the box for Custom report themes. Power BI will then prompt you to restart the program. (Please note, custom report themes are a Preview Feature in Power BI at the time this article is being written, hopefully in the future this feature will be standard and will not require this step).

How to choose the best colors for your data charts
Figure 2 – Power BI Options Menu

Once you restart Power BI, you will then have a new icon for Switch Theme on the Home tab. This icon will now be present on any Power BI file opened in Power BI desktop going forward.

Figure 3 – Power BI Switch Theme Menu Option

Create the Custom Color Theme

Next, you will need to create the file that has your selected brand colors. You will create a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file that provides Power BI with the basic information it needs to fill in your chosen colors. If you haven’t written code before or haven’t worked with JSON before, have no fear, for this customization you will simply follow a basic template. You can write the color theme JSON file in a standard code-writing program like Visual Studio if you have it, or you can write in Microsoft Notepad. The custom color theme allows for the customization of four items: the eight standard colors used in the report visualizations, the report background, the report foreground, and the standard color used for table visualizations.

You can copy and paste the following JSON into Notepad (or code editing software). The colors must be expressed in hex code preceded by the pound sign #. If you are unfamiliar with hex code for colors, there are many websites available to help you convert standard RBG color codes to hex. The only portions of this code you want to change are the name and hex colors.

“name”: “Example Theme”,

Your color theme must have a name and you must have at least one data color. The background, foreground, and table accent are optional. I recommend listing up to eight data colors. If you list fewer than eight colors, Power BI will select default colors for the remaining un-customized color options. If you list more than eight colors, the other colors will show up on your visualizations, but will not show up on the manual color selection drop down.

To remove the optional portions, simply delete out that section of text. For example, if you want the background and foreground to be the default Power BI colors (Power BI default foreground and background are white, hex #FFFFFF) and do not want to specify the table accent, you would use JSON that does not list these optional items:

“name”: “Example Theme”,

Once you have your JSON code written save the file as a .json. If using Notepad, click to save and then on the file name, change the extension from .txt to .json

Figure 4 – Saving JSON Code

Using Custom Color Themes

Now that you have created your custom color theme using JSON, you need to import it into your Power BI report. The custom color themes work best when starting a new Power BI report. You can apply the theme to an existing report, but will then have to update manually any visualizations that already exist.

Open a new Power BI desktop file, select the new Switch Theme button on the Home tab. Select Import Theme, and use the file explorer to find the .json file you created for your theme. You will then get a pop up to let you know your theme was imported successfully. If you receive an error, go back and look at your JSON code and make sure you aren’t missing a comma or quotation marks or if there is some other error present.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts
Figure 5 – Power BI Import Theme Option

How to choose the best colors for your data charts
Figure 6 – Import Successful Confirmation

Now when you create visualizations, the colors will default to those you created in the JSON file. When you manually go to change colors inside of a visualization, your color options will also show up as those you specified in the JSON file. If you have applied your theme to an existing report, you will still have to update the colors on each existing visualization manually, but the theme colors to select from will be those from your custom theme.

How to choose the best colors for your data charts
Figure 7 – Custom Color Theme in Power BI

Now your report will have your standard brand colors and you can have consistency across your company reports.

If you would like to learn more about utilizing Power BI in your business and the power of interactive and dynamic reporting, please contact our business intelligence team today.

Read more “How To” blogs from ArcherPoint for practical advice on using Microsoft Dynamics NAV.