Here’s a list of the top 5 tips involving adding colour to charts in Tableau. It’s not about choosing the actual colours, but the process to get nice meaningful colouring in to your viz. Using these quick techniques will allow for a lot more flexibility with colouring and allow you to get straight into the visual look of your Tableau charts without any technical obstacles:


1 – Adding 2 Different Fields To the Colours Shelf Together

Place the first field on the Colour Shelf like normal: Then place the 2nd field on the Details Shelf:

Stick with me – There won’t be any change yet. Now the magic.

Click the icon next to your pill on the details shelf. Select ‘Color’ here:

Note. If working with a continuous measure (green pill), it is best to turn it into a discrete value with a calculation (see Tip 5 below). If you really want to combine it as is, then you can right-click on it and select ‘Convert to Discrete’.

Also, if you’d like to change the wording of the fields in the Label quickly, when it’s a detail pill in the shelf you can right-click it and select ‘Edit Aliases’


2 – Screen Colour Picker

This one is a little hidden, but so, so helpful if you need a very specific colour.

Once a field is on the Colour Shelf, go to ‘Edit Colors’ – The quickest way to do this is to ‘Double-Click’ on a row in the colour legend: 

Now in the ‘Select Data Item’ section, again ‘Double-Click’ on the colour that you want to change:

Now click ‘Pick Screen Color’ and you will be able to pick your new colour from anywhere on the screen!

The trick to this is to have the colour you want on half the screen and your project not in full screen, so you can easily hover straight over the colour that you want.


3 – Mixing Highlighting and Gradient Colours in the Same Chart

If we have a chart with many different colours, you might want to add a gradient colour, but also keep 1 or 2 values with a different colour to highlight them. To do this:

Select the first 1 or 2 colours as usual. (hold Ctrl to select multiple at once)

Then highlight the rest of the fields (hold Shift to select multiple in a row at once, Ctrl if they are not in a row)

Then Select your chosen gradient colour from the ‘Select Color Palette’ dropdown:

Finally, click ‘Assign Palette’


4 – Permanently Colouring as the default Highlight Colours

If you like the Colours when a value is highlighted: 

In the colour legend, click the arrow in the top right, then select ‘Assign Highlight Colors to Palette’.



5 – Multi-Field or Difficult Colouring Made Easy With a Calculation

Often, if none of the above quick solutions have been enough, then we have the option to create a Calculated field. This can use multiple fields, parameters or value limits to colour our chart however we want.

For example, to fill only a quadrant with one colour we can use something like:  Or to change colour above a certain value, something like this would work:


Bonus tip – If lines or shapes are overlapping in your chart. Top bring the colour that you want to the front of your chart, simply click it in the legend and drag it to the top. The value’s that are higher in the legend will appear above the others in the chart.

By mastering these 5 colouring tips you can avoid any technical barriers to colouring your charts in Tableau and focus on your colour choices, contrasting, highlighting and appropriate colours for beautiful viz’s.


Blake Stroh
Author: Blake Stroh