Proportional Brushing is one of the most common techniques used with set actions in Tableau. It is a popular technique to perform due to its ability to interactively show how the values of certain items proportionally relate to a total value. The method is performed with set actions. Meaning that we will be using Sets and Dashboard Actions in order to make this happen. If these terms do not sound familiar or if you need a quick refresher, visit the links attached previously.

In this blog, I will go through how to configure the technique of proportional brushing with an example. In the end, I will also share how to configure proportional breakout. Another variation of proportional brushing.

Proportional Brushing

Taking the Sample – Superstore as an example for our dataset, let’s say I want to visualize how different states are contributing to the total sales values across Sub-Categories. An additional benefit of proportional brushing is the ability to answer this question without the use of filtering data. Once configured, your dashboard should function like this:

Step #1: Set up the Sheets in Question

In order to make a dashboard action, we need at least two sheets. In my example. I want to make a basic bar chart of the different States with SUM(Sales). Plus, another bar chart showing the SUM(Sales) per Sub-Category.

Step #2: Create the Set

After configuring the sheets, the most important piece of the puzzle is the set itself. We need to create a set from the dimension we want to proportionally split the views by. Therefore, I will create a set from “State”. Because I want to see how much sales of each state make up the total sales within each Sub-Category. I then add this new set field to color in the Sub-Category Sales sheet.

However, I want to use the State sales sheet to add the selected states to a set. Therefore, the set I am going to create right now is going to be empty. But it is to be populated by the dashboard action later on.

Step #3: Make the Dashboard and Configure the Set Action

For the final step, we need to put together the sheets in the dashboard and create the set action. The idea is that as I click the bars in the “States with Sales” sheet, the states will be added to the empty set and displayed on the “Sub-Category Sales” sheet as to how much of the full total it takes.

For the Dashboard action:

  • Make a “Change Set Values” action.
  • Run the action on Select.
  • Make the “States with Sales” sheet the source.
  • Choose the created set as the target set.
  • Running the action will assign values to the set.
  • Removing the selection will remove all values from the set.

And there you are. In just a few steps we can configure this technique. But there are also other use cases that can benefit from this technique.

BONUS: Proportional Breakout

Proportional breakout can be defined as a variation to visualizing proportional brushing. Where we can see how much the value of selected marks relates to the total in the form of a line chart. The selected marks are broken out of the total to be visualized separately along the axis. The configuration of this is the same, but instead of a view with a bar chart, we make a line chart.

In this example, I make a “Sales Across Months” chart that is being controlled by the States with a Sales chart. After making the same configurations, we can notice that the selected marks are separated from the total.

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