How to Customize Colors in Tableau

How to Customize Colors in Tableau

Now you’ve got some fonts that aren’t basic, how about some custom colors? I really like matching my visualizations to my report, which is almost always based on the color scheme of the organization I’m working with. Let me tell you though, this can be a bit of a beast, so let’s get started.

First, identify the colors you want to use. I suggest Adobe Color, which will allow you to upload a photo and get HEX codes (along with complementary colors and other fun things). Of course, you might be lucky and already have your HEX codes available.

Next, you’ll need to determine whether you want to add a categorical, sequential, or diverging palette. I’ll show you categorical. You can add the others as needed using the same method.

With your HEX codes in hand, locate your Tableau Repository. Depending on where you installed this, it could take a minute. When you locate it, there will be a Preferences.tps you need to open in a text editing program.

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Now, get started with code. You want to add the following before copying anything into the text edit.

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You will need to copy the basic code down and insert your HEX codes. Tableau lists all the sets of you would possibly need here. Copy, paste, and customize.


Make sure you are using straight quotes. Anything else will cause all sorts of errors. I’ve included examples of a correct and incorrect repository. This is often not a matter of inserting quotes but changing the auto-correction in the program.

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Save and close your text editor and open Tableau! To test your colors, open up a sample dataset. On a worksheet, drag a dimension onto the Color Mark. You’ll immediately see those basic default colors but don’t worry – we’re fixing that!

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Select the Color Mark and click Edit Colors. You should see yours at the bottom!

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Select your color and be sure to click Assign, otherwise nothing will change. Close the editor and check out your new colors!

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If you followed along, you just completed some serious steps in customizing your Tableau visualizations. I call it a small but mighty change. You can go forth knowing that your visualizations are more customized and specific to your project!

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

How to Customize Fonts in Tableau

Giving Your Tableau Visualizations a Makeover: Custom Fonts

Whether you are using Tableau, Excel, or any other visualization tool, you will come across defaults. The problem with using something right out of the can is that it often does not speak directly to your audience. Your investment in a visualization speaks to your investment in conveying the story of your data.

By now, you may know tips and tricks to de-clutter and minimize the amount of ‘out-of-the-box’ stuff in your Excel charts, but I want to share how to tackle the same problem in Tableau. It doesn’t take long to spot a Tableau visualization. Is that a bad thing? It depends (does that give anyone else grad school flashbacks?). Instead of being recognized for the font (Tableau Book) and colors that Tableau pumps out, have your Tableau visualizations recognized for their utility and story.

I’m going to share how to customize your fonts and colors within Tableau. And, make your life a lot easier (i.e. not changing one component of the visualization at a time.). Repeat after me: “I am better than the defaults.”

Let’s start with fonts, the easier change of the two.

Instead of having to change your fonts as you go, you can change the entire workbook. If you enjoy clicking on every area of your chart and changing the fonts, go ahead… but, I bet you’d rather spend that time on something else. You will also miss one or two! This way the entire book is the same font. You can adjust sizing as needed!

First, open your workbook.

Go to Format in the top, right-hand corner and click Workbook.

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On the right-hand side, you’ll have a formatting pane, which includes fonts, colors, and lines. Choose your font (I suggest a nice sans serif), and you’re ready to rumble!

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Check back on 11/27 for How to Customize Colors in Tableau.

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

Getting Started with Tableau

Tableau, which according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary means “a graphic description or representation,” is a powerful infographic tool with over 50,000 users. Although the user-base is nowhere near that of Excel (with 30,000,000 users), this tool has some perks depending on what you’re looking for in terms of dataviz. So maybe you’ve heard of Tableau or, if you haven’t, you have now.

My plan is to give you some background on the versions available, how to download it, and resources for getting started!

Deven Wisner Tableau Homepage

Which Version is Right for Me?

Options are great, but what’s the right choice?!?! Here is a simplified comparison.

Tableau Public

  • Basic version of Tableau.
  • Your visualizations must be stored in a global repository (the “catch”).
  • You can still do awesome things like Viz of the Day or #MakeoverMonday.

This is the perfect option for those who want to become familiar with Tableau.

Cost: FREE

Tableau Desktop Licenses

If you don’t want to share your client’s data with others, I’d suggest forking out the dough for this one. However, make sure you’ll use it before you buy it. A year goes by quick, and you’ll be sorry you spent the money if it sits on your desktop unused.

You can choose a personal or professional license. Both include a full license. All your workbooks (i.e., all your stuff) is stored locally). The personal license has limited data sources (e.g., Excel and Google Sheets). The professional license allows you to access data directly from its source (e.g., Microsoft SQL Server). You can also share data via Tableau Online/Server.

Cost: $420 (personal) or $840 (professional)

Tableau Student

Enrolled in classes at least part-time? Score a year’s license to Tableau Professional for FREE. No gimmicks besides a sales call or two from Tableau. You can do this for as long as you are in school.

Cost: FREE

All that said, if you aren’t in school, try Tableau Public. Why? Trying it takes no commitment. Play for a while, determine if it is right for your project, and make a decision.

Download Tableau!

Even if you plan on committing to a full-license, get a free 14-day trial first. That’s 14 days to get your act together and start using it.

You might also check the system requirements. Making your computer sound like a rocket ship = not good.

I Downloaded Tableau, Now What?

Okay, now that you have Tableau, it’s time to do things! Don’t let this giant program just sit on your computer unused. Open that bad boy and start playing with data. My advice: Stay away from the sample datasets. They’re “perfect” for all intents and purposes and that’s not a good way to learn. Instead, connect to your own dataset. Remember: depending on your version of Tableau, you will be limited to certain file types.

First, start utilizing the vast Tableau community. You can literally Google your problem and likely come up with an answer. You can also visit the official Tableau Community forums to ask questions and learn from other confused people. I do this on the regular.

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Second, commit to at least one #MakeoverMonday per month. Challenge yourself, along with many other Tableau users, to recreate a visualization. In one revision of a viz, I learned THREE new things.

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Third, find your local Tableau User Group (TUG). You’ll be able to connect with other users and work through visualizations together.

Now…go forth and continue your path to becoming a Tableau beast.

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

Formatting Tableau Filters!

Filters are awesome. One reason I love Tableau is that data visualizations aren’t static. How does that tie into filters? Glad you asked! Tableau makes it really easy for your stakeholders (i.e. end-users) to interact with their dashboard using filters. The only problem is that the filter you add on the back-end takes up a lot of room and, to be perfectly honestly, looks terrible. Luckily, I learned how to fix that, and I’m going to share it with you!

This post is most applicable when you’re visualizing data on a dashboard. So, assuming you have one, use a dashboard to test this out! I’m serious about keeping my client’s data private, so I am using a sample dataset.

The first thing you have to do is add a filter (well, make sure your monitored is plugged in too). Okay, okay, I know – not funny. But seriously, add a filter and select the dropdown “carrot” by hovering over the right filter. Opt to “Show Filter,” and be amazed as the filter options pop-up on the right side of your screen.

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Jump to your dashboard, which would normally have a lot of other cool stuff on it. But, for the purpose of this post, we’re only focusing on the filter! So, you see the filter showing on the right side of your screen, and your years with associated number of records.

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Now, as you can see, all your selections are there. You really couldn’t long for much more. Butttttt…it takes up a lot of space and it’s ugly. So, let’s hover over the right side of the filter box, click on it, and select the dropdown “carrot.” The first thing I do is change the filter to “Floating,” which means I don’t have to conform to Tableau’s organization of MY stuff.

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You’re floating and awesome now, so you can go back to your “carrot” and select the formatting of the list. Personally, I use a dropdown but this will really depend on what’s appropriate for your data. What makes the most sense? For years, usually my clients are comparing, so I choose “Multiple Values Dropdown.”

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Now we are in business. But wait. That thing looks ugly, right? So, let’s remove the title by going to the “carrot” and choosing “Edit Title.” Delete it! Now, add a floating text box with something that makes sense. Remember: more text doesn’t always make something better. I simply changed this one to “Order Date: …”

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Of course, you want to avoid Tableau defaults. Customize your dashboards to your client’s needs AND their company colors. Canned visualizations are rarely the right fit for anyone, and I find that they’re too cluttered and clunky. More on that soon…!Deven Wisner Tableau Order Data Success.png

Want to learn Tableau? Start doing #MakeoverMonday.

About two years ago I was introduced to Tableau. I fell in love. The intuitive visualizations, live data connections, and easy-to-use interface. OKAY, maybe the last part is a bit of a stretch. Easy and Tableau in the same sentence? Sure, maybe if you’re using their Superstore dataset. Otherwise, look forward to some fun, yet challenging hours with Tableau. My plan is to tell you about #MakeoverMonday, and give you the opportunity to learn from my experiences (and hopefully inspire you to share your own).

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 8.23.31 PMAll that shouldn’t be a deterrent from using Tableau. There are more resources than most people would have time to exploit. I’ve tried several and found worthwhile tidbits in each. The most useful so far? Well, I have to be honest: #MakeoverMonday. Why you ask? Because #MakeoverMonday challenges you to create visualizations from data that wasn’t canned specifically for Tableau. You will find yourself searching for guides and input from other users. Instead of compiling endless notes on Tableau (that you may never use), you’re learning as you go…oh yes, my friend — applied learning!#MakeoverMonday HomepageSo what is #MakeoverMonday? The creators, Eva Murray and Andy Kriebel, call it a “weekly social data project.” Every Monday, a visualization and dataset will be available on their website. You can download the data for Excel or Tableau, so you can choose your favorite…or use both! After downloading, you have the chance to turn a preexisting dataviz into your own. Use your current skills, and stretch them with new tips and tricks. It can be as easy or difficult as you choose. Regardless, you’ll walk away with some swollen Tableau (or Excel) muscles. #MakeoverMonday Data SetsNow what? Learning is great. Sharing back what you learned, asking your colleagues questions, and engaging in reflective practice…now that’s the good stuff. Going forward, at least one of my monthly blogs will be dedicated sharing my dataviz makeovers. Even better, I will share the cool things I learn. Now go…build your dataviz muscles!