Creating an effective data visualization using the tools found in Microsoft Power BI may require more than just graphs, pie charts, and data tables. Sometimes, effective communication requires a little style and a bit of pop.

One way to add some visual flair to your Power BI reports is to insert a background image. This tutorial shows you how to add a background image to a report and offers some advice on choosing the appropriate image.

SEE: Microsoft Power BI: The smart person’s guide

Insert the background image

Adding a background image to a report in Power BI is a relatively simple procedure. Load or create your report, click the paint roller icon in your Visualization tools list, and click the Page Background item to reveal the Add Image button, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Click the Add Image button and navigate to where your chosen image is stored. Power BI will add it to the background, much as you would expect. As you can see in Figure B, I chose an image of my cat sleeping in a funny position.

Figure B

SEE: Hiring kit: Microsoft Power BI developer (Tech Pro Research)

Choose the right image

While the photo of my cat is certainly cute, it isn’t necessarily the best image to use for a background in a business-related report, especially if that report is going to be shared with a wide audience. Remember, the idea is to effectively communicate a specific and particular message. To do that you have to know your audience and you have to know your data.

At the very least, whatever image you choose, it’s a good idea to consider adjusting the transparency of the background. By lowering the transparency, you can adjust the audience’s focus and bring the message to the forefront of your report, relegating the image to the background, where it should be. Even my sleeping cat photo looks more appropriate at 50% transparency, as you can see in Figure C.

Figure C

In the example stock portfolio gain/loss graph, a thematic image would probably be more appropriate. You should look for an image that supports and enhances the message you are trying to communicate rather than distracting the audience away from it. You should also take into consideration the color palette of your background image–the image should not obscure the text in your data visualization because it is similar in color.

In Figure D, I choose an image of a mountain range with peaks and valleys suggestive of the peaks and valleys often associated with stock prices and their fluctuations. It may not be the image you would choose, but for most situations it is better than a sleeping cat.

Figure D

More Power BI tutorials

This tutorial is part of a series of tips and tricks to help you master Power BI and data visualization. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Your thoughts

Do you typically use a background image in your reports? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.