Are you looking to create custom-made, unique visualizations that make your dashboard interesting and visually appealing? Then Tableau is just the tool you are looking for. With a wide range of features and options available for Viz customization, you can easily design a one-of-a-kind dashboard in Tableau. This blog will describe a specific type of customization – Using image overlaying to enhance bar charts.

The information displayed using graphical images can capture the attention of viewers faster and help them remember the information for a longer period. Especially, if the images can easily be correlated to the data.

Scenario 1: Customizing bars in a bar chart, in the shape of a man and a woman to display data categorized by gender

To achieve this in Tableau, you can replicate the following steps:

Data from the ‘Regional’ sample workbook provided by Tableau Desktop 2020.2 has been used for this example.

1. Pull in your data with gender information into Tableau. Create a new sheet and add the measure to the Rows shelf and gender dimension to the Columns shelf. Also, drag gender dimension and the measure to the ‘Color’ and ‘Label’ properties of the ‘Marks’ pane respectively and align label to the bottom of the bar. Fit the visual to the entire sheet, remove gridlines and adjust the bar size as required:

Creating Unique Custom Visuals in Tableau – Part 1
Create a Bar chart for measure by gender and assign a color to each gender

2. Download icons of a woman and a man in black color with a white background. You can search for them easily online and save them in your system.

Creating Unique Custom Visuals in Tableau – Part 1
Creating Unique Custom Visuals in Tableau – Part 1

3. Use any image manipulation software to modify the icons, such that only an outline is visible. Inside the outline, the icon must be transparent and outside the outline, the background color must be white. You can find many blogs and videos online on how to achieve these results. For this example, GIMP software was used. Save the images as PNG files as PNG format supports transparency. The resulting image will be like this:

Creating Unique Custom Visuals in Tableau – Part 1

4. Create a new dashboard, select ‘Floating’, and drag the sheet you created in the first step inside the dashboard. Adjust the size as needed. Select ‘Floating’ again and drag an image object onto the dashboard. In the pop-up window, select the image file which you created in the previous step and enable the options ‘Center Image’ and ‘Fit Image’.

Creating Unique Custom Visuals in Tableau – Part 1
Add sheet and image to the dashboard

5. Finally, overlay the image on top of the bar chart so that the transparent center of the image is filled by the bar. You need to do this for both male and female images over their respective bars. This will take a fair amount of adjusting both the image size and bar size. The result will look like this:

Creating Unique Custom Visuals in Tableau – Part 1

This technique can be used to create many different types of customizations in Tableau for almost any type of data.

Watch out for the next blog on using graphic icons as filters and assigning images to data points. To learn more about Visual BI’s Tableau Consulting & End User Training Programs, contact us here.


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