Tableau Color Formatting Tips for Better Viz Presentation

The use of Tableau color is extremely important in the presentation of your viz, just like Tableau size. Tableau color can be used in two different ways on the Marks card.  If you drag a Dimension to the Tableau Color shelf, Tableau will give you a color for each one of the dimensions in the field.  If you drag a Measure to the Color shelf, it will give you a color gradient representing a continuous spectrum of your numbers. 

  1. Using the view we created for the hierarchies and sorting module, drag off Product Name, so we only see Product Category and Product Sub-category in the view.   
  1. Drag Product Category from Dimensions to the Color shelf. (If you drag it off columns, you will still get the same colors, but they will not be grouped. Rather, the chart will order the bars by alphabetical Product Name.) 
  1. You’ll now see three colors, one representing each category (Orange for office supplies, blue for furniture, green for technology). 
Tableau Color Palette
  1. Now go back to Dimensions and drag Product Sub-category right on top of the Product Category pill on the Color shelf.  This will replace category in the colors with the breakout by sub-category. 
  1. You’ll now see a number of different colors, one for each of the categories. 
Tableau Color
  1. Using color can be helpful for visually grouping certain groups or categories.   
  • As a possible example, let’s say your child was asked to compare all the heights of the students in their classroom.  We’ll put the tallest kid first all the way down to the shortest.  We build a bar chart to show all the heights and sort them. Then, we drop Gender on the Color shelf to see boys vs. girls.  Largely, boys will tend to cluster at one end of the scale and girls at the other, but you’ll have a few outliers of really tall girls or shorter boys mixed in.  Using the color encoding helps us quickly identify those. 
  1. You can change the color by clicking on the Color shelf.  A window will pop up that gives you the options Edit Colors, Transparency, or Effects. 
  1. Click Edit Colors.  A new window will pop up that shows which colors are assigned to which categories.  You can choose a different color palette from the drop-down menu on the right side of the window. 
  1. Choose the Tableau 20 palette and click Assign Palette.  You’ll now see all the categories on the left-hand side have a new color assigned. (In this case it may stay the same because Tableau chose that palette automatically because it had enough colors in it. Feel free to click Tableau Classic 20 if you didn’t see a change in colors, but we want to end up back with Tableau 20.)  You can click Apply and see it in the actual view you’ve created. 
  1. But what if you wanted to change the colors individually, not let Tableau arbitrarily decide it? Let’s say for example, that you feel strongly that Rubber Bands needs to definitely be the color gray.   
  1. Since there isn’t any gray in the view, click the color palette menu and click Seattle Grays.  Click on the Rubber Bands icon in list under “Select Data Item.”  Now, choose the top gray.   Click “Apply.”  Notice how it changed just the Rubber Bands to be that gray color.  
Tableau Colors
  1. Now, click OK and notice the color selection of your entire view. 
  1. Next, drag Sub-Category off the color shelf. If Product Name is still on the Detail shelf, drag that one off as well. We should be back to our blue bar chart.   
  1. Drag Profit out to color now.  
  • Remember that Profit is continuous, spanning from negative (i.e we’re in the red), to positive (in the black), and can be pretty much infinitely large or small. 
Tableau Change Color Based on Value
  1. Notice how we get a gradient of color from Orange, to a really light blue, almost gray color to a really dark blue.  Those color bands represent the spectrum of profit.  So rather than color codes for discrete categories or buckets, we now have a continuous color range to show a progression of numerical values. 
Tableau Color Schemes
  1. We can edit the color gradient just like we could the discrete Dimension colors.   
  1. Again we’re given palettes to choose from just like we were before.  You can also edit the colors by double clicking the color square and editing the RGB values. 
Tableau Custom Color Palette
  1. If the gradient is too fine, you can choose Stepped Color (I almost always do) to make it easier for your eye to see the differences.  Check the box and set it to 4.  
Color Tableau
  1. When you click Ok, we now instantly see that Scissors, Rulers, and Trimmers, Bookcases, and Tables have sales, but are overall unprofitable.  That’s something someone can immediately take action on. 
Color Tool for Tableau
  1. You can also edit the transparency and the border for more formatting effects.  Transparency, like the name implies, makes your marks less opaque, and borders outline your marks. 

Want to learn more about more formatting essentials in Tableau, other than Tableau colors? Be sure to check out our Tableau size formatting blog. We also offer Tableau classes for individuals and corporations who wish to take Tableau skills to the next level!