A Primer for the Microsoft Power BI Color Picker

A Primer for the Microsoft Power BI Color Picker
Reading Time: 3 minutes

UPDATED February 2021:
With the February 2021 release of Power BI Desktop, this color picker is in use everywhere. The original post below references its initial introduction into a single area of Power BI Desktop.

ORIGINAL POST from December 2019:
With the December Power BI Desktop update, users are introduced to a new color picker when customizing theme colors. The new color picker is much more versatile than the original when selecting colors.

Power BI’s new custom color picker:

Power BI’s original custom color picker:

The new color picker allows colors in RGB format in addition to the hex color format that Power BI has used exclusively until now.

The new one also easily allows users to choose from a wider selection of shades and tones. This builds upon the simpler selection of hues and tints in the original.

Oversimplifying color definitions:

  • Hue – the dominant color along the spectrum of red to green to blue back to red (this is usually visualized as the “color wheel“)
  • Tint – color when a range of white combines with hue
  • Shade – color when a range of black combines with hue
  • Tone – color when a range of grey combines with hue

The new color picker represents Hue along the bottom bar. If this were shown on a color wheel, it would be a 360 degree circle moving clockwise from red to green to blue to red. In the case of Power BI, you can adjust hue by clicking in the bar and dragging the selection or by clicking and hitting the left or right arrows keys on the keyboard. In fact, if you use the arrow keys, you’ll see that you increase or decrease hue values by the equivalent of a degree on a circle. Give it a try–you can start on the left and hit the right arrow 360 times to get all the way to the right (don’t actually try this 360 times…).

Tint, Shade, and Tone are achieved by clicking and dragging the small circle in the square above the hue bar. You can also manually specify the hex or RGB values. As a result, the new color picker better visualizes the full range of tints, tones, and shades for a specific color.

In contrast, the original color picker:

  • does not allow for wider tone or shade selection
  • shows only hex colors and not RGB
  • does not change the hex value when hovering over the image (this makes precision selections impossible through a visual hover and click)

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