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Custom Power BI Themes: Getting Started

Cathrine Wilhelmsen creating custom Power BI themes

Power BI comes with several built-in themes and a whole gallery full of custom themes available for download. But what if you still can’t find the perfect look for your reports? No problem! Just create your own custom Power BI themes :)

…sounds simple enough, right? It only takes a few minutes to create a custom Power BI theme with a color palette of your choice. Whoosh – instant custom branding!

But if you are like me, simple color changes might not be enough. Maybe you want finer control of borders, fonts, labels, or other visual elements. Or maybe you just don’t want to keep changing the same settings over and over and over again in multiple visualizations and reports. (Please don’t do that.)

You can control all of these things in custom Power BI themes. It is, however, not quite as simple as creating a color palette… yet. (You never know when the Power BI product team will blow your mind with a new update!) But for now, we need to define custom themes in JSON files.

(Does the thought of writing JSON make you go “eww” or “ugh“? Don’t worry! Just head on over to the PowerBI.tips Report Theme Generator instead and let it do the work for you. It is a fantastic resource!)

Learning with Cathrine

Since I have an awful memory and can barely remember what I did last month, I will be blogging while learning how to create my own custom Power BI themes. That means that all posts and examples may change at any time. And I’m sure they will, every time I learn something new.

My posts will be more like journal entries than technical references, but my goal is to create a series of cheat sheets for myself that I can reference later. Maybe you can learn something as well? :)

In this post, I will focus on the basics and share some resources to help you get started. I will first create my color palette, then define the basic JSON theme file that I will continue to build on in later blog posts.

Ok. Let’s go! :)

Picking Colors

Cathrine Wilhelmsen Creating Custom Color Palette

First, make sure you read Meagan Longoria’s excellent post Choosing a Color Palette for Your Power BI Report. She explains what to consider when choosing colors, why you want to choose certain colors over others, and how to check if your color palette is accessible.

Then, find a color picker or color palette tool that works for you. There are many free apps available, so you may have to try a few different ones. My favorites are:

Data Color Picker

Data Color Picker by Learn UI Design is created especially for data visualizations. It lets you create several types of palettes with varying numbers of colors. It also includes tips on how and when to use different types of palettes.

Coolors

If you need some inspiration, try Coolors. The name is accurate, it really is cool! Just press the spacebar to generate random palettes. Fun! You can also create a palette based on a picture or choose one or more colors to start from. Pick different shades, or adjust and refine the hue / saturation / brightness / temperature to your liking. It has a built-in color blindness simulator and also lets you save and share palettes. I love this tool, but I wish I could create more than 5 colors.

ColorHexa

ColorHexa is great for creating basic color schemes, but has fewer options than the previous tools. I mainly use this to find complementary colors and for its built-in color blindness simulator.

Adobe Color CC

If you prefer a different type of visual tool, try the Adobe Color CC color wheel. It lets you drag handles and sliders to adjust your palette.

Creating Power BI Color Palettes

Power BI color palettes consist of ten colors: white, black, and eight other colors. The default color palette looks like this:

Default Power BI Color Palette

You can’t replace the white or black, but I recommend that you define all the other eight colors. If you read Meagan’s post, you may be thinking “but she said you only need six colors“. Yep! But if you define fewer than eight colors, Power BI will replace the missing ones with the default colors from the palette above. That might be fine in some cases, but the control freak in me prefers to define the entire palette. It doesn’t mean you have to use all the colors :)

I used the Data Color Picker and will start with this pink-to-teal color palette:

Cathrine Wilhelmsen's Custom Power BI Color Palette

But how did I get that into Power BI?

Defining the JSON file

Power BI Desktop to the rescue! If you click on the Switch Theme button on the ribbon, you will see this menu:

Power BI Themes Menu

Click on how to create a theme to read the official article by Microsoft. It will walk you through all the steps of creating, importing, and using custom Power BI themes. It would be pointless of me to repeat all of that here :) I will simply include my final, basic JSON theme file.

First, I give my theme a name. Then, I define my eight colors in order. (My top to bottom equals left to right in Power BI.) Finally, I choose a background and foreground color, as well as an accent color for tables. (I will go more into details on this in a later blog post.) The result looks like this:

{
    
    "name": "Cathrine Wilhelmsen - Light Theme",

    "dataColors": [
        "#980249",
        "#a95295",
        "#a78cd4",
        "#a8c3ff",
        "#6fb5e7",
        "#38a6c6",
        "#02949f",
        "#cccccc"
    ],

    "background": "#ffffff",
    "foreground": "#980249",
    "tableAccent": "#980249"

}

Summary

In this post, we looked at some resources to get started, created a color palette, and defined a basic JSON theme file. In the next post, we will look at how to change the background colors of Power BI reports. I know, exciting, right? :)

Who is Cathrine Wilhelmsen?

Cathrine is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, author, speaker, blogger and chronic volunteer who loves teaching and sharing knowledge. She works as a consultant, architect and developer, focusing on Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence projects. She loves sci-fi, chocolate, coffee, craft beers, ciders, cat gifs and smilies :)

Comments

Hi! This is Cathrine. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Thanks!

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