Tips and tricks for color formatting in Power BI

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

Power BI provides many different ways to customize your dashboards and reports. This article details a collection of tips that can make your Power BI visualizations more compelling, interesting, and customized to your needs.

The following tips are provided. Have another great tip? Great! Send it our way and we’ll see about adding it to this list.

  • Apply a theme to the entire report
  • Change the color of a single data point
  • Conditional formatting
  • Base the colors of a chart on a numeric value
  • Base the color of data points on a field value
  • Customize colors used in the color scale
  • Use diverging color scales
  • Add color to table rows
  • How to undo in Power BI

To make any changes, you must have edit permissions for the report. In Power BI Desktop, open the report in Report view. In the Power BI service, that means opening the report and selecting Edit from the menu bar, as shown in the following image.

where to find the Edit menu

When the Filters and Visualizations panes appear along the right side of the report canvas, you’re ready to start customizing. If the panes do not appear, select the arrow, from the top-right corner, to open them.

report canvas in editing view

Apply a theme

With report themes you can apply design changes to your entire report, such as using corporate colors, changing icon sets, or applying new default visual formatting. When you apply a report theme, all visuals in your report use the colors and formatting from your selected theme. To learn more, see Use report themes

Switch theme icon in menu bar

Here, we've applied the Innovate theme to the Sales and Marketing report.

Innovate theme applied

Change the color of a single data point

Sometimes you want to highlight one particular data point. Perhaps it’s a sales figure for the launch of a new product, or increased quality scores after launching a new program. With Power BI, you can highlight a particular data point by changing its color.

The following visualization ranks units sold by product segment.

Change data colors to grey

Now imagine you want to call out the Convenience segment to show how well this brand new segment is performing, by using color. Here are the steps:

Expand the Data colors card and turn the slider On for Show all. This displays the colors for each data element in the visualization. You can now modify any of the data points.

Format pane with Show all set to On

Set Convenience to orange.

column chart with one orange column

Once selected, the Convenience data point is a nice shade of orange, and certainly stands out.

Even if you change visualization types, then return, Power BI remembers your selection and keeps Convenience orange.

You can change the color of a data point for one, several, or all data elements in the visualization. Perhaps you want your visual to mimic your corporate colors of yellow, green, and blue.

bar chart with bars that are green, yellow and blue

There are all sorts of things you can do with colors. In the next section, we take a look at conditional formatting.

Conditional formatting for visualizations

Visualizations often benefit from dynamically setting color based on the numeric value of a field. By doing this, you could show a different value than what’s used for the size of a bar, and show two values on a single graph. Or you can use this to highlight data points over (or under) a certain value – perhaps highlighting areas of low profitability.

The following sections demonstrate different ways to base color on a numeric value.

Base the color of data points on a value

To change color based on a value, select a visualization to make it active. Open the Formatting pane by selecting the paint roller icon and then open the Data colors card. Hover over the card, and select the three vertical dots that appear and choose Conditional formatting.

select the conditional formatting option by clicking the three vertical dots

In the Default color pane, use the dropdowns to identify the fields to use for conditional formatting. In this example, we've selected the Sales fact > Total Units field and selected light blue for the Lowest value and dark blue for Highest value.

settings for conditional formatting by data color

column chart with default colors applied

You can also format the color of the visual using a field that is not part of the visual. In the following image, %Market Share SPLY YTD is being used.

column chart with multiple shades of blue

As you can see, although we've sold more units of both Productivity and Extreme (their columns are higher), Moderation has a larger %Market Share SPLY YTD (its column has more color saturation).

Customize the colors used in the color scale

You can also change the way the values map to these colors. In the following image, the colors for Minimum and Maximum are set to orange and green, respectively.

In this first image, notice how the bars in the chart reflect the gradient shown in the bar; the highest value is green, the lowest is orange, and each bar between is colored with a shade of the spectrum between green and orange.

column chart showing gradient of colors rangign from green to orange

Now, let’s see what happens if we provide numeric values in the Minimum and Maximum value boxes. Select Custom from the dropboxes for both Minimum and Maximum, and set Minimum to 3,500, and set Maximum to 6,000.

Format conditionally by numbers

By setting those values, gradient is no longer applied to values on the chart that are below Minimum or above Maximum; any bar with a value over Maximum value is colored green, and any bar with a value under Minimum value is colored red.

result of conditional formatting by numbers

Use diverging color scales

Sometimes your data may have a naturally diverging scale. For example, a temperate range has a natural center at freezing point, and a profitability score has a natural mid-point (zero).

To use diverging color scales, select the checkbox for Diverging. When Diverging is turned on, an additional color selector, called Center, appears, as shown in the following image.

Default color dialog with Color scale selected

When the Diverging slider is on, you can set the colors for Minimum, Maximum and Center separately. In the following image, Center is set to .2 for % Market Share SPLY YTD, so bars with values above .2 are a gradient shade of green, and bars below one are shades of red.

column chart with red and green bars

Add color to table rows

Tables and matrixes offer many options for color formatting.

default table

One of the quickest ways to apply color to a table or matrix is to open the Formatting tab and select Style. In the image below, we've selected Bold header flashy rows.

default table

Experiment with other color formatting options. In this image, we've changed the background color under Column headers and changed both the Background color and Alternate background color for the Values (rows).

default table

How to undo in Power BI

Like many other Microsoft services and software, Power BI provides an easy way to undo your last command. For example, let’s say you change the color of a data point, or a series of data points, and you don’t like the color when it appears in the visualization. You don’t recall exactly which color it was before, but you know you want that color back!

To undo your last action, or the last few actions, all you have to do is type CTRL+Z.

To discard all the changes you made on a Formatting card, select Revert to default.

Formatting card showing Revert to default at the bottom


Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Please send it our way, and we’ll see about including it here.

Next steps

Getting started with color formatting and axis properties

Sharing reports.