3. Formatting Charts


Power BI provides extensive options for formatting charts. We’ll look at the major options in this lesson.

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  1. Lesson Goal (00:16)

    The goal of this lesson is to explore the formatting tools available in Power BI.

  2. Modifying the Axes (00:22)

    To format a chart, we select it, then select the paint roller icon below the visualizations pane. The exact formatting options vary for different chart types, and new formatting options are often added as part of Power BI Desktop’s monthly updates. This lesson considers the most important formatting options for a bar chart.

    The General option lets us manually adjust the position and size of the chart. It’s usually easier to resize a chart using the mouse on the canvas.

    The X-axis and Y-axis options allow us to modify the axes of the chart. We can adjust the position, color, and text size of the axis, or we can add an axis title. For an axis containing numeric data, we can adjust the format of the numbers, and we can adjust the minimum and maximum values that are visible on the chart.

  3. Adjusting Data Colors and Data Labels (02:02)

    The Data Colors option lets us set the colors of the bars on the chart. We can set a single color for each bar or color each bar separately.

    The Data Labels option lets us add numeric labels to the chart representing the value of each bar. We can also adjust the labels by modifying their text size, number formatting and similar properties.

    The Plot Area option allows us to adjust the transparency of the visual. This can be useful if we have a background image, but is otherwise not commonly used.

  4. Adjusting the Title, Background and Border (03:00)

    The Title option lets us determine if the chart is shown with a title. We can also adjust the formatting of the title, including its text size, text color, and alignment.

    The Background option allows us to add a background color to the chart.

    The Lock Aspect option ensures that the chart’s current height to width ratio is maintained if you resize the chart. It can help avoid charts looking overly stretched or squashed.

    The Border option lets us add a line border around the edge of the chart. We can also adjust the color and thickness of the border.

  5. Discussion of Formatting (03:45)

    Different visualization types have different formatting options. Where possible, formatting is maintained when you change the type of a chart. Of course, not every formatting tool will be used in every chart, but it’s always worth experimenting and seeing what tools you can use to make visualizations more effective.


In the previous lesson, we created two bar charts, one showing the amount of revenue generated by region and the other showing the proportion of revenue generated in each sub-region.

We'll use these charts to explore the formatting options available in Power BI.

We'll start by selecting the bar chart showing revenue by region.

The formatting options we'll use in Power BI can be found in the formatting section of the visualizations pane.

This can be accessed via the paint roller icon.

The first option, General, allows us to manually modify the size of the visual and its position on the canvas.

Most often, it's easy to do this by resizing the visual on the canvas as we've done previously, but it's useful to know that the option is here. We'll close the General tab by selecting the up arrow.

Next, we'll look at the access options, starting with the Y-axis. Here, we have the option to move the axis, change the color of the text on the axis, or add an axis title.

The default text size for the labels can be a bit small, so I'll increase it to 11.

We'll close the Y-axis options by selecting the up arrow as we did before.

The X-axis dropdown has similar options.

The start and end values, let us set the minimum or maximum value of revenue we want to see on the axis.

We then have the option to increase the text size. We can also modify the number format using the display option. If we click on the dropdown, we have several options, including showing numbers in millions, thousands, or without formatting.

As you can see, the default setting is Auto, which usually selects an appropriate number format.

Our chart uses millions, which makes sense for the data.

We'll close the X-axis options and move on to data colors.

These settings allow us to change the colors of our bars.

We'll choose show all and give each bar a different color.

Next, we'll open the Data Labels dropdown and turn this setting on.

These labels give us the numeric value for revenue in each region.

We can customize the labels by setting their number formatting or position on the chart.

We'll increase the text size to 11 like we did before.

Moving on, the plot area dropdown allows us to set the transparency of the visual. This can be useful if we have a background image, but otherwise, may be of little interest.

The Title dropdown allows us to change the color, alignment, and size of the title text, making it a bit more noticeable. We'll set the font color to black and set the alignment to centered.

Next is background.

This lets us set a background color to the visual.

We'll set our background color as a light gray.

Lock aspect keeps the current proportions of the visual intact if you resize it.

We'll leave this turned off for now. Finally, Border creates a border around the chart.

We'll turn this on and add a black border.

These are among the most important formatting options, but every type of visual has a slightly different set available. As you grow familiar with the different types of visuals in Power BI, it's worth experimenting with the formatting options available for each one. It's worth noting that formatting options are maintained when you change the type of visualization. For example, if we switch this from a bar chart to a tree map, we can see that the colors, background, border, and data labels are still present.

We'll undo this change by pressing Control + Z.

We'll stop the lesson here. While you may not use all these formatting options in every visual, it's worth knowing how to access them.

Developing aesthetically pleasing charts and graphs is a great way of attracting users' attention and highlighting specific data.

In the next lesson, we'll look at how we can display more information on our visuals with legends and tool tips.

Dashboards and Visualizations
Introduction to Visualizations in Power BI