Customizing your choropleth map

After importing the data for your choropleth map, you can now refine, annotate and design it in step 3: Visualize. In this tutorial, we'll walk you through the different options. 

In the Refine tab, you can find four tools: Color palette, Tooltips, Map labels and Map key. 

Refine: Color palette

With the Color palette, you can decide which colors the regions should have on your map. If you imported categorial values (e.g. "yes"/'no" or "Republican"/"Democrat"/"Independent"), you can click on the color boxes to change the color directly. If you imported numerical values (e.g. percentages or population numbers), then you can change the colors on the map with the following features:

Color Picker: Here you can choose between seven different color palettes. The four palettes at the top are great if your values go from low to high (eg. population, unemployment rates, life expectancies). The three palettes at the bottom are useful when the extremes in the data are most interesting. E.g. if you want to compare your regions with a national/global average, and want to draw attention to the regions that are the furthest away from this average. 

Colors menu: 

  • With Reverse, you can turn around the color palette you chose.
  • Discrete turns the gradient into specific colors that are visually clearly separated from each other. 
  • With Import, you can import your own color palette in form of multiple hex codes (e.g. '#ffffe0', '#ffe0a9', '#ffbe84'). With Export, you can export your current color palette in the same format. That's useful if you want to create multiple maps with the same color palette: Export it from one map and import it to your other maps.

Stops: This feature will (simply speaking) increase the contrast of your maps; especially if your data has a lot of outliers. The number of stops is the number of (equally big) parts on our color palette which cover the same amount of our values – and because that's not intuitive at all, we wrote an extra article that explains color palettes (incl. stops) in more detail.

Refine: Tooltips

A click on "Customize Tooltips" will open a pop-up window, in which you can find the columns you imported as blue buttons on the top-right corner. Click on them to integrate them in your tooltips. Here too, we wrote an  extra article that explains how to add tooltips to your map and points out good practices.

Refine: Map labels

Here you have two options: 

  • Make map zoomable makes...well, the map zoomable. You will see that this succeeded if your map gets a grey minus & plus button at its top-right corner.
  • Choosing a column for your Map label will add labels to your map. You might not see them immediately. That's the case when your map is fully zoomed out (at zoom level 1), but your Minimum zoom for labels is something greater than 1. The higher the zoom level, the more you need to zoom in your maps to see the labels.

Refine: Map key

Datawrapper will automatically create a map key for you, and locate it at the bottom-right of your map. The Map key feature lets you customize this key:

  • Title: Here you can define what will stand above your map key. Pro tip: HTML works here, so a <br> will result in a line break. 
  • Automatically generate legend: This option is checked by default. If you uncheck it, you get the option to create a custom map key. We'll tell you everything about that feature in this extra article
  • Number format: If you imported percentages without the %-sign or have giant numbers that you rather see written as "30M" instead of "30.000.000", then this feature helps you to fix that. 
  • Position: Here you can move the map key to any corner of your map. That's often a purely aesthetic decision, depending on where your map gives you space. 

These are all the options you can find in the Refine tab. Let's move on to the Annotate tab. Here you'll find two options: "Describe chart" and "Highlight element".

Annotate: Describe chart

If you've created a Datawrapper chart or map before, you already know this feature. Here you can give your map a title, a description, add notes and a source:

  • We recommend to write in the title what's interesting about the map – the one key statement that you want to show on this map, if you have one. E.g. "Unemployment highest in the south"
  • The description should have as much information about the data as possible: What do we see exactly? E.g. "Unemployment rates in % in all US states, 2016"
  • Think of notes as footnotes, where you want to specify any abnormalities about your data. E.g. "California unemployment rates from Jan and Feb 2016 not included in the calculation."
  • The source name will give your readers the information how trustworthy your data is. Does it come from a government institution or another trustworthy organization? The source URL lets your reader dig even deeper and have a look at the underlying data themselves. Both, source name and source URL, should be filled out on every map to increase transparency. E.g. US Bureau of Labour Statistics, August 2017

Annotate: Highlight element

If you choose to highlight a region on your map, this region's label will be visible all the time; even on zoom level 1. If you can't select any elements, you need to go back to Refine > Map labels and choose a column. You can select multiple regions to highlight. 

Afer explaining the Annotate options, there's only one tab left: Design.


In this last tab, you can decide in which layout your chart should be published. Should it come in the Datawrapper design? Or (if you or your organization decided to style a chart) in the design of your organization? 

You can also enable Social Sharing here. If you do that, the share buttons for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will appear on the top-right corner of your map. 

In this tutorial, we gave a quick overview of all options that you have to customize your Choropleth map. You can find more detailed explanations about the color palettetooltips and custom map keys in other articles.

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