Customize x-axis and y-axis properties

APPLIES TO: noPower BI service for consumers yesPower BI service for designers & developers yesPower BI Desktop noRequires Pro or Premium license

Note

These visuals can be created and viewed in both Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. The steps and illustrations in this article are from Power BI Desktop.

In this tutorial, you'll learn many different ways to customize the X-axis and Y-axis of your visuals. Not all visuals have axes. Pie charts, for example, don't have axes. And customization options vary from visual to visual. There are too many options to cover in a single article, so we'll take a look at some of the most-used customizations and get comfortable using the visual Format pane in the Power BI report canvas.

Watch Amanda customize her X- and Y-axes. She'll also demonstrate the different ways to control concatenation when using drill down and drill up.

Note

This video uses an older version of Power BI.

Prerequisites

Add a new visualization

Before you can customize your visualization, you have to build it.

  1. In Power BI Desktop, open the Retail Analysis sample.

  2. At the bottom, select the yellow plus icon to add a new page.

    yellow plus sign

  3. From the Visualizations pane, select the stacked column chart icon. This adds an empty template to your report canvas.

    Screenshot of the Visualizations pane and an empty stacked column chart

  4. To set the X-axis values, from the Fields pane, select Time > FiscalMonth.

  5. To set the Y-axis values, from the Fields pane, select Sales > Last Year Sales and Sales > This Year Sales > Value.

    Screenshot of the populated stacked column chart.

    Now you can customize your X-axis. Power BI gives you almost limitless options for formatting your visualization.

Customize the X-axis

There are many features that are customizable for the X-axis. You can add and modify the data labels and X-axis title. For categories, you can modify the width, size, and padding of bars, columns, lines, and areas. And for values, you can modify the display units, decimal places, and grid lines. The following example shows customization for a column chart. Let's add a few customizations to get you familiar with the options and then you can explore the rest on your own.

Customize the X-axis labels

The X-axis labels display below the columns in the chart. Right now, they're light grey, small, and difficult to read. Let's change that.

  1. In the Visualizations pane, select Format (the paint roller icon Screenshot of the paint roller icon. ) to reveal the customization options.

  2. Expand the X-axis options.

    Screenshot of the X-axis options.

  3. Move the X-axis slider to On.

    Screenshot ot the On slider.

    Some reasons you may want to set the X axis to Off, is if the visualization is self-explanatory without labels or if you have a crowded report page and need to make space to display more data.

  4. Format the text color, size, and font:

    • Color: Select black

    • Text size: Enter 14

    • Font family: Select Arial Black

    • Inner padding: Enter 40%

      Screenshot with labels on an angle

  5. Maybe you don't like the way the X-axis text is displayed on a diagonal. You have several options.

    • Change the text size to something smaller than 14.
    • Make the visualization larger.
    • Display fewer columns and add a scrollbar by increasing Minimum category width.

    Here, we've selected the second option and grabbed one of the resize bars to make the visualization wider. It now accommodates the 14-point text without needing to display the text on an angle or with a scrollbar.

    Chart and formatting pane with labels horizontal

Customize the X-axis title

When the X-axis title is On, the X-axis title displays below the X-axis labels.

  1. Start by turning the X-axis title to On.

    Title slider

    The first thing you'll notice is that your visualization now has a default X-axis title. In this case, it's FiscalMonth.

    Chart with title displayed along bottom

  2. Format the title text color, size, and font:

    • Title color: Select orange

    • Axis title: Type Fiscal Month (with a space)

    • Title text size: Enter 18

    After you finish the customizations, your stacked column chart looks something like this:

    Screenshot of the customized stacked column chart.

  3. Save the changes you've made and move to the next section. If you ever need to revert all of the changes, select Revert to default at the bottom of the X-Axis customization pane. Next, you'll customize your Y-Axis.

Customize the Y-axis

There are many features that can be customized for the Y-axis. You can add and modify the data labels, Y-axis title, and gridlines. For values, you can modify the display units, decimal places, starting point, and end point. And, for categories, you can modify the width, size, and padding of bars, columns, lines, and areas.

The following example continues our customization of a column chart. Let's make a few changes to get you familiar with the options, and then you can explore the rest on your own.

Customize the Y-axis labels

The Y-axis labels are displayed to the left by default. Right now, they're light grey, small, and difficult to read. Let's change that.

  1. Expand the Y-Axis options.

    Screenshot of the Y-axis options.

  2. Move the Y-Axis slider to On.

    Screenshot ot the On slider.

    One reason you might want to turn off the Y-axis, is to save space for more data.

  3. Format the text color, size, and font:

    • Color: Select black

    • Text size: Enter 10

    • Display units: Select Millions

    Chart after Y-axis formatting

Customize the Y-axis title

When the Y-axis title is On, the Y-axis title displays next to the Y-axis labels. For this visualization, having a Y-Axis title doesn't improve the visual, so leave Title turned Off. We'll add Y-axis titles to a dual-axis visual later in this tutorial.

Customize the gridlines

Let's make the gridlines stand out by changing the color and increasing the stroke:

  • Color: Select orange

  • Stroke: Enter 2

After all these customizations, your column chart should look something like this:

Screenshot of the chart with the customized Y-Axix.

Customizing visualizations with dual Y axes

Some visualizations can benefit from having two Y axes. Combo charts are a good example. Before we can format dual Y axes, we'll create a combo chart that compares trends for sales and gross margin.

Create a chart with two Y-Axes

  1. Select the column chart, and change it to a Line and stacked column chart. This type of visual supports a single line chart value and multiple stackable column values.

    Screenshot of the Visualizations pane with the line and stacked column chart icon called out.

  2. Drag Sales > Gross Margin Last Year % from your Fields pane into the Line Values bucket.

    Screenshot of the line and stacked column chart with all three values clearly represented.

  3. Reformat the visualization to remove the angled X-axis labels.

    Combo chart and Format pane with font size reduced to 12

    Power BI creates two Y axes, allowing the values to be scaled differently. The left axis measures sales dollars and the right axis measures gross margin percentage.

Format the second Y-Axis

Because we started with a visualization with one formatted Y-axis, Power BI created the second Y-axis using the same settings. But we can change that.

  1. In the Visualizations pane, select the paint roller icon to display the format options.

  2. Expand the Y-Axis options.

  3. Scroll down until you find the Show secondary option. Verify that it is On. Our secondary Y axis represents the line chart.

    Screenshot of the Show secondary option.

  4. (Optional) Customize the font color, size, and display units for the two axes. If you switch Position for either the column axis or the line axis, then the two axes switch sides.

Add titles to both axes

With a visualization that's complex, it helps to add axes titles. Titles help your colleagues understand the story your visualization is telling.

  1. Toggle Title to On for Y-Axis (Column) and the Y-Axis (Line).

  2. Set Style to Show title only for both.

    Screenshot of the Title and Style options.

  3. Your combo chart now shows dual axes, both with titles.

    Screenshot of the customized dual Y-Axes chart.

  4. Format the titles. In this example, we've shorted one of the titles and reduced the font size for both.

    • Font size: 9
    • Shortened the Axis title for the first Y axis (the column chart): Sales last year & this year.

    Screenshot of the combo chart with full titles displaying.

    For more information, see Tips and tricks for color formatting in Power BI and Customize visualization titles, legends, and backgrounds.

Next steps

More questions? Try the Power BI Community