Handbook

The Complete Guide to Power BI Themes + 12 Examples

Last Updated:
May 2, 2022
The Complete Guide to Power BI Themes + 12 Examples

Introduction

Without themes, Power BI users are left manually formatting each element of their report, which not only wastes valuable time but runs the risk of not having a consistent design.

This guide explains how to use themes and create your own custom themes in Power BI so that you can save hours in the build and design process, whilst maintaining a consistent design across your reports.

We'll walk through the step by step process we use to create themes that meet design best practice standards so that you can do the same.

Additionally, we'll share tips on using color throughout your report, and provide a number of example themes, some of which you can download to help get you started.


What we'll cover

Part 1 - What are Power BI Themes?

Part 2 -
Why Should I use a Power BI Theme?

Part 3 -
How to use Power BI Themes

Part 4 -
How to Customize Power BI Themes

Part 5 -
How to Create your own Custom Power BI Theme

Part 6 -
Tips For Using Color in your Power BI Reports

Part 7 -
12 Power BI Theme Examples

Part 8 -
Download Free Power BI Themes

Part 9 -
Power BI Theme Resources

What are Power BI Themes?

A theme is a standardized set of colors and formatting options that can be applied to your entire Power BI report, including visuals, text, and shapes, in just a few clicks.

The purpose of a theme is to allow you to retain a consistent design across your report, without having to change each element individually.

Power BI dashboard theme examples from Numerro.

Power BI - Changing Report Theme

Why Should I use a Power BI Theme?

Using Power BI themes allows you to quickly apply design changes to your entire report so that you can build and design reports with a consistent look and feel.

The beauty in applying a theme to your report is that all the visuals will reflect the formatting and colors, as default, from your selected theme.

Applying a theme to your reports can save you hours, as you won't have to manually change the formatting of each element, your theme takes care of that.

How to use Power BI Themes

To start using themes in Power BI, navigate to the View ribbon and select the drop-down arrow in the themes section. Then, simply select the theme you want!

In the example below, we've browsed for a theme and imported one of our custom themes. A custom theme can be created in Power BI and is then saved by selecting the 'Save Current Theme' option from the drop-down in the example below. The custom theme will save as a JSON file which you can then import as we did below.

Power BI dashboard theme adjustments.
Power BI - Apply a New Theme

Types of Power BI report themes:

  1. Built-in themes are already installed within Power BI. These themes provide a variety of predefined color schemes and can be selected directly from the Power BI Desktop menu.
  2. Custom themes can be created by either customizing a current theme, importing a custom theme from the Theme Gallery, or importing your own custom theme using a JSON file.

How to Customize Power BI Themes

To begin customizing your own theme, select 'View' on the ribbon, click the drop-down on the themes section, and select 'Customize Current Theme'.

Power BI dashboard theme adjustments.
Power BI - Customize Current Theme

You should then have access to the theme's framework, where you can begin to edit colors and elements to your liking.

In this section, we'll walk through the 'Name and Colors' part of the Power BI themes framework to help you understand how each element impacts the design of your report. We won't cover the other parts as they are self-explanatory.

Power BI dashboard theme adjustments.
Power BI - Customize Theme

Name and colors

  • Name = The name of your theme.
  • Theme Colors = The 8 colors that make up the color palette you have access to in the format section of the visualization pane. These are the default colors assigned to visuals. (See 'Theme Colors' image above).
  • Sentiment colors = The colors associated with visuals such as KPI's or gauges to represent a positive or negative value.
  • Divergent colors = The colors associated with visuals that represent a data range usually represented on a single color scale from light to dark.

Advanced

See here for the full list of elements effected by the advanced section.

You should now have a good understanding of how the Power BI customize theme framework works, and how each element affects the design of your report.

In the next section we can begin to use this framework to create our own themes.

How to Create your own Custom Power BI Theme

In this section, we're going to share the simple step by step process we use to create Power BI themes.

Step 1: Building a Color Palette

Before we even start to create our theme in Power BI, it's vital that we have a clear understanding of the colors we want to use, and where we're going to use them.

In this step we'll help you create a color palette that can be used within your Power BI theme, all whilst following data visualization design best practice.

To help build our color palette we'll also be using the following resources:

Color palette builder

Use this to populate your color palette as we go.

  • Note that it is automatically populated with our 'Theme 1 - Light', from the template below.
  • If you want to create a light or dark theme version of an existing color palette, you can adjust the saturation of the entire palette using the 'adjust palette' feature.
  • Light themes tend to have a higher saturation, and dark themes a lower saturation.

Trending color palettes

Use this for color inspiration.

Color picker

Use this to find new colors for your palette.

Theme Color Palette

Your themes color palette should consist of 10 colors, see below.

Power BI theme color palette adjustments.
Power BI - Theme Color Palette

Primary 1 - E.g. 4E7CFF

Primary 2 - E.g. 7033FF

Primary 3 - E.g. F65164

Secondary 1 - E.g. 22C0FF

Secondary 2 - E.g. DC7653

Header Color - E.g. 252423

Text Color - E.g. 717A90

Slicer Color - E.g. EEF1F7

Visual Color - E.g. FFFFFF

Background Color - E.g. F6F8FC

We'll now begin to guide you through each one of the colors above so that you can populate your color palette builder as we go.

Primary and Secondary Colors

Note that Primary 1 is your lead color and represents a number of additional report elements.

If applicable, use your brands color palette, although ensure you follow the guidance below:

  • Each color should contrast, as to be easily distinguishable.
  • For light themes, use saturated colors. - Using the color palette builder tool you can alternate between a colors shades.
  • For dark themes, use lighter tones. - Using the color palette builder tool you can alternate between a colors shades.
  • If needed, use trending color palettes to find suitable colors.

Header

  • Light theme headers should be black, or a very dark shade of grey/blue if this suits your palette.
  • Dark theme headers should be white, or a very light shade of grey/blue if this suits your palette.

Text Color

  • Light theme text should be dark grey, or a dark bluish grey if this suits your palette.
  • Dark theme text should be light grey, or a light bluish grey if this suits your palette.

Slicer Color

  • For light themes, select a slightly darker color than your background color.
  • For dark themes, select a slightly lighter color than your visual color.
  • Ensure the color is on the same spectrum as your background/visual color. - Use the color palette builder tool to alternate between the shades of a color.

Visual Color

  • For light themes your visual color should always be white.
  • For dark themes select a slightly lighter variant of your background color.

Background

  • For light themes, select a very light grey, or a light grey with a hint of blue.
  • For dark themes, select an almost black (avoid pure black). You can also include a hint of blue.

Step 2: Building your Theme

In this stage, we'll transfer your color palette into Power BI and build your theme using the customize theme framework, where you'll then be able to apply and download your theme.

  1. Within your file, select 'View' on the ribbon, then, click the 'Themes' dropdown and select 'Customize Current Theme'.
  2. Use your color palette above to match the right color to the right field in the Power BI customize theme framework. See the Matching Themes PDF for details.

Once populated, simply apply your theme and you're ready to make the final adjustments to your report.

Step 3: Amending your Visuals

Please note that there are a few limitations to the Power BI customize theme framework and as such we implement a few workarounds to provide us with greater flexibility when customizing reports.

For example, we override a number of the default formatting color options that are applied based on the 'Advanced' section of the customize theme framework.

Using this method still ensures you are able to seamlessly change themes without any change in formatting, although the themes will need to be built using our methodology.

For the full list of elements we manually override, see below:

  • Slicer background color = Slicer Color (Color 8)
  • Visual Data labels (inside only) = White
  • Shape Map Default Color = Slicer Color (Color 8)
  • Gauge Target Color = Header Color (Color 6)
  • Table/Matrix Column Headers = Slicer Color (Color 8) / Primary 1 (Color 1)

For an example of how this works, see the video below, in which we manually override the default background color on the slicer visual by using one of the colors from our color palette, in this case, color 8 (slicer color). Notice that the formatting is not affected by changing themes, as the visual inherits the new themes color 8 (slicer color).

Power BI theme example dashboard.
Power BI - Changing the Slicer Background Color

Tips For Using Color in your Power BI Reports

Use a single color to show continuous data

In the example below, the bar height provides us with the visual representation of the sale value, and a further gradient provides no additional value.

Power BI tips on using colors.
Power BI Tip - Single Color Usage

Pick colors that are easily distinguishable

When showing comparison or part to whole insights, it's important to use contrasting colors to help users differentiate between categories.

Power BI dashboard example for colors.
Power BI Tip - Use Contrasting Colors

Use color to make important information stand out

If you're trying to highlight important data points, use a stand out color to highlight the important insight, and use a grey-based color for the less-important insights.

Power BI tips on using color.
Power BI Tip - Highlight Data with Color

Don’t use too many colors

Too many colors can be overwhelming for users. Look to reduce the number of colors where possible, ideally opt for a maximum of 6 colors in a visual.

Power BI dashboard tips on using color.
Power BI Tip - Too Many Colors

Be consistent with colors across visuals

The great thing about a theme is that it ensures a consistent range of colors across your report. However, should you need to change the color of a specific visual, make sure to use a color from your palette in order to retain a clean and professional design.

Power BI tips on color usage.
Power BI Tip - Consistent Colors Across Visuals

12 Power BI Theme Examples

For reference, all the Power BI themes and reports below were built using the Numerro Toolkit, allowing for an effortless build/design process whilst ensuring we met design best practice standards.

Theme 1 - Light | View Live

Power BI example template report for sales.
Power BI Sales Dashboard - Light Mode

Theme 1 - Dark | View Live

Power BI example template report for sales.
Power BI Sales Dashboard - Dark Mode

Theme 7 - Light | View Live

Power BI example template report for orders.
Power BI Order Summary - Light Mode

Theme 7 - Dark | View Live

Power BI example template report for orders.
Power BI Order Summary- Dark Mode

Theme 24 - Light | View Live

Power BI example template report for sales.
Power BI Sales Dashboard - Light Mode

Theme 24 - Dark | View Live

Power BI example template report for sales.
Power BI Sales Dashboard - Dark Mode

Theme 2 - Light | View Live

Power BI example template report for revenue analysis..
Power BI Revenue Analysis Dashboard - Light Mode

Theme 2 - Dark | View Live

Power BI example template report for revenue analysis.
Power BI Revenue Analysis Dashboard - Dark Mode

Theme 21 - Light | View Live

Power BI example template report for revenue analysis.
Power BI Revenue Analysis Dashboard - Light Mode

Theme 21 - Dark | View Live

Power BI example template report for revenue analysis.
Power BI Revenue Analysis Dashboard - Dark Mode

Theme 14 - Light | View Live

Power BI example template report for orders.
Power BI Orders Summary - Light Mode

Theme 14 - Dark | View Live

Power BI example template report for orders.
Power BI Orders Summary - Dark Mode

Power BI Theme Resources

A collection of resources to support you when building your own themes.

Color Palette Builder

Use this to populate your color palette.

  • Note that it is automatically populated with our 'Theme 1 - Light'.
  • If you want to create a light or dark theme version of an existing color palette, you can adjust the entire palettes saturation using the 'adjust palette' feature.
  • Light themes tend to have a higher saturation, and dark themes a lower saturation.

Trending Color Palettes

Use this for color inspiration.

Color Picker

Use this to find new colors for your palette.

We hope you found this guide useful, and we look forward to seeing the custom themes you'll be creating to bring that extra level of polish to your Power BI reports. Additionally, if you're looking for an easier and faster way to build great looking reports that reap the benefits of design best practice, you may be interested in leveraging a design toolkit and the benefits it brings.


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Ready to improve your reports?
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