How to use Tableau’s Marks Card

The marks card is one of the more versatile and powerful set of functions within Tableau.  With some practice (proactively experimenting), you will feel more comfortable using it and after a while the “wondering what will happen when you click” will be less and less.

Marks Card showing Type set to “Automatic”

The Marks Card has two parts: the Mark Type drop down select box at the top, and several Mark Property buttons below the Type.

Mark Type

If you leave the Mark Type set to “Automatic”, Tableau will guess the most appropriate mark to use based on the selected Chart Type and type of Fields on the columns and rows shelves.

The Mark Types currently supported are: Bar, Line, Area, Square Circle, Shape, Text, Map, Pie, Gantt Bar, Polygon, and Density.

Select a different type of Mark on your graph with the Marks Type

Mark Property

Mark Properties either change the way the selected mark looks or the way it behaves.   Color, Size, Label, Angle, and Shape  properties change the appearance of the mark. Detail and Tooltip change underlying properties.

To start using a Mark Property you drag a field from the Dimensions or Measures on to the Property button you want to use.   You can then configure the Property by clicking on the Property button. Note that only property buttons that are compatible with the selected Mark Type are displayed.  For example, Path Property is available for Line Marks but not Pie Marks.

The following Mark Properties are available:

  • Color – Distinguish your data using color. There are great preset palettes (color schemes) or you can create a custom palette. Measures are typically displayed as gradients while Dimensions are assigned unique colors.
  • Size – Lines get thicker, bars get wider, symbols and text gets bigger.
  • Label – Adds the text version of the field data to your choice of Marks of your viz. For example, you could label all marks with the value, or just the minimum and maximum marks.
  • Detail – changes the granularity (or aggregate level of detail) for the Mark. For example, adding Patient_ID to the Detail Property will ensure that there is a Mark plotted for every distinct Patient_ID.
  • Tooltip – is like a text Label, but it only appears when the cursor hovers over the mark.
  • Angle – Is used for pie marks, and indicates the measure value used for the angles of the pie graph.
  • Path – is for Line and Polygon marks.  The Path Property lets you set the type of line mark (linear, step, or jump), or change connecting marks using a particular drawing order.
Changing the Marks Properties