4 Fair questions every Tableau Rookie will ask (2/4)

So, you've reached the 2nd part in this blog series of the 4 fair questions every Tableau Rookie will ask. In the previous post we started out gently, by touching upon how Tableau acts, depending on wether we start building our viz with dimensions or measures.

In this post we'll get a bit more colorful, as one of the first questions we get is:

2) Can I import my own color pallets into Tableau?

Now, as you probably already know, Tableau allows you to select between a long list of predefined colors. Pretty as they might be, many new Tableau users ask how to get their own company colors integrated, instead of of using the default colors in Tableau. The answer is, of course, "yes you can". But on one condition: before you start throwing rainbows after your dashboard, keep in mind what the colors you use will represent. Just because your marketing department defined that a lively green color represents your corporate identity, does not mean it's suitable for visualizing your shipping expenses, which lately have exploded and are undermining your business. From a psychological perspective, colors evoke emotions within us and can alter our perceptions of facts, completely without our awareness (for more on this, have a look at Ryan Sleeper's post on The Psychology of Color). Therefore - think before you ink. Deal? Great, now lets get to it!

You probably already know how to switch colors, but lets see what we can choose from as a default:

That's nice, but lets spice it up with your own colors. Custom palettes are defined in your Preferences.tps file. Depending on wether you are a Windows or Mac user, the file is located at:

Windows: 'C:\Users\\Documents\My Tableau Repository'Mac: '/Users//Documents/My Tableau Repository'

The Preferences.tps file is a XML-file which we can edit with any text editor. You can create your own color palettes by typing in the color of your choice as HEX code. This is a pretty neat feature, but remembering or finding these color codes can be a bit of a pain, so lets make it a tad bit easier. Tableau’s own Eric Hannell has created a tool called TabPal which automatically finds the color codes for us. Pretty slick! All we need is an online image of what we want to get the color code of, which TabPal will use for identifying the colors. For this example lets try to get the colors used by Tableau themselves.

First thing is to find an image containing the colors that you would like to use. In most cases you will probably be using a company logo that contains the specific colors you're interested in. If this is the case, try to do an image search on google. Alternatively, if you already have the image on you computer, you can upload it to any of your preferred online image tool. I prefer photobucket or postimage. As long as you get a link that points directly to the image and that it is in JPG or JPEG format, you’re golden! In this case I found the Tableau logo (aka. the dots I see when I close my eyes every night):

Once you've got your hands on the link pointing to the image, we are ready to move on. Go to and paste in the URL pointing to your image. Then press "Create Palette". The result will present you with the color-coding for your new custom color palette. Copy the entire code and paste it into your Preferences.tps file, which we located earlier.

Easy as that! Save and close the Preferences.tps file. You are actually able to import multiple palettes into the preferences file, just by pasting them in below each other following the XML structure. To use your new colors, save your workbook if needed and restart Tableau. Once you're back in Tableau you should now be able to see your brand new color palette.

Again, remember that colors can be more impactful than we think and quite disadvantageous if not used properly, so for a final time let me repeat - think before you ink.

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