A drop shadow is a visual effect used to give depth to graphical designs by creating the impression that an object is raised above the objects behind it.

Depth can be a powerful element in the world of graphic and web design. So, Tableau is for visualizing data, can the drop shadow effect be used? The short answer is Yes, for certain things. In this article, I'll show you an approach for containers & buttons (tableau 2018.3):

It should be noted that Tableau is frequently updating it's dashboard design elements. We daily Tableau Users are hoping that there will be an easier, more scalable way of creating container drop shadows in the future (maybe with an extension?). But for now, here is one way to achieve this visual effect on a dashboard.

Container

1. Drag and Float 2 horizontal and 2 vertical containers onto your dashboard. (Creating 4 quadrants)

HOTKEY ALERT: Holding Shift while dragging out new container objects will auto-formate them to float.

2. Fill all but one container with Blank Objects and Set padding to 0:

  • Drag 1 blank object into the top left vertical container. Set all padding to 0.
  • Drag 2 blank objects into the top right vertical container, stacking vertically. Set all padding to 0.
  • Drag 2 blank objects into bottom left horizontal container, stacking horizontally. Set all padding to 0.

3. Stack and arrange all containers within the bottom right horizontal container (I've colored the blanks for visual discrepancy):

  • Grab the entire bottom left Horizontal container (as opposed to gray, the blue container outline means everything is selected. You may have to double click the handlebar) and drop it into the bottom of top left Vertical container.
  • Grab the entire top right Vertical container and drop it into the bottom right Horizontal Container
  • Grab entire top left container and drop it on the left side of the bottom Horizontal container.
  • Remove all default padding that has been auto created...

4. Create the Shadows. This is where you can really begin making it your own. I'll show a basic example but feel free to mess with dimensions to meet your needs:

  • Fix the bottom left most containers width to 10px and then fix the entire bottom row height anywhere from about 5-10px.
  • Color the bottom right container black with 10% Opacity.
  • Fix top right containers height at 10px and then fix the entire right column width anywhere from about 5-10px
  • Color the bottom right container black with 10% Opacity.

There you have it! Replace the blank in the shadowed container with sheets, text objects, images, etc. and it will now have a drop shadow. The size of the container is adjustable (just grab the whole thing with a tripple click and stretch) and it can even be dropped into a tile position if you don't like floating.

Let me just tell you from experience that this is a great way to add a little extra visual something to your dashboard but is not immensly scalable. Do what you will with this new found shadow!

Buttons

I'd like to highlight one last drop shadow feature, which has been made infintely easier with the Tableau 2018.3 Button Object. Drop shadows on buttons can make them pop. You can obviously use a design tool like Adobe Illustrator and create amazing buttons. But what if I want a fast, low cost or no cost solution?

  1. Go to this button generator: https://www.imagefu.com/create/button (if you don't care so much about drop shadow and want icons, I've also used this http://buttonoptimizer.com/)
  2. Customize your button and export to png.
  3. Upload to your dashboard and look like a button pro.

We love sharing this information internally and with our community. If you have other creative methods for shadows or similar effects, let us know!