Getting started with the formatting pane

If you have edit permissions for a report, there are numerous formatting options available. In Power BI reports, you can change the color of data series, data points, and even the background of visualizations. You can change how the x-axis and y-axis are presented. You can even format the font properties of visualizations, shapes, and titles, providing you with full control of how your reports appear.

To get started, open a report in Power BI Desktop or the Power BI service. Both provide almost identical formatting options. When you open a report in the Power BI service, be sure to select Edit Report from the menu bar.

menu bar showing Edit option

When you’re editing a report and you have a visualization selected, the Visualizations pane appears which lets you add or change visualizations. Directly below the available visualizations are three icons: the Fields icon (a stack of bars), the Format icon (a roller brush), and the Analytics icon (a magnifying glass). In the image below the Fields icon is selected, indicated by a yellow bar below the icon.

When you select Format, the area below the icon displays the color and axis customizations available for the currently selected visualization.

You can customize many elements of each visualization:

  • Legend
  • X-axis
  • Y-axis
  • Data colors
  • Data labels
  • Shapes
  • Plot area
  • Title
  • Background
  • Lock aspect
  • Border


You won’t see all these elements with each visualization type. The visualization you select will affect which customizations are available; for example, you won’t see an X-Axis if you have a pie chart selected because pie charts don’t have an X-axis.

Also note that if you don’t have any visualization selected, Filters appears in place of the icons, which lets you apply filters to all visualizations on the page.

Let’s show a couple examples: one working with colors, the other changing the properties of an axis. From there, you should be ready to customize colors, axes, and labels all day long.

Working with colors

Let’s walk through the steps necessary to customize colors on a chart.

  1. I select a Clustered Column Chart from the report canvas.
  2. Next, I choose the Format icon to show the available customizations.
  3. Then I select the small down arrow to the left of the Data Colors customization. This will show how I can customize the Data Colors, with options that are specific to the visualization I’ve selected.
  4. Data Colors expands downward to show its available customizations.

Let’s make some changes. I can select the down arrow next to the color to make changes on each available data series. I’ll make Cost of living yellow, Weather I’ll turn orange, and Community well-being will be green. The following screen shows me at the last step, changing Cost of living.

The changes are shown in the image below. Wow, that’s a bright chart. Here are a few useful elements to note about working with colors. The numbers in the following list are also shown on the following screen, indicating where these useful elements can be accessed or changed.

  1. Don’t like the colors? No problem, just select Revert to default and your selection reverts to the default settings. You can do that for one color, or for the entire visualization.
  2. Want a color you don’t see in the palette? Just select Custom color, and choose from the spectrum.

Not crazy about the change you just made? Use CTRL+Z to undo , just like you’re used to doing.

Changing axis properties

It’s often useful to modify the X-axis or the Y-axis. Similar to working with colors, you can modify an axis by selecting the down-arrow icon to the left of the axis you want to change, as shown in the following image.

If you want to collapse the X-Axis options, just select the up arrow icon beside X-Axis.

You can remove the X-axis labels entirely, by toggling the radio button beside X-Axis. You can also choose whether to turn axis titles on or off by selecting the radio button next to Title.

There are all sorts of colors to choose from, and many more customizations you can apply to your Power BI reports and dashboards.


These color, axis, and related customizations available when the Format icon is selected are also available in Power BI Desktop.

Setting color from text values

Beginning with the August 2018 Power BI Desktop update, you can set colors by the text value, or hex code, for a given report element. For more information, please see conditional formatting in tables.

Next steps

For more information, see the following article: