How to Create a Scatter Plot in Tableau

Wadzanai Mhondoro

What is a Scatter Plot?

A scatter plot is a graph in which the values of two variables are plotted along two axes, the pattern of the resulting points reveals any correlation present.

When to use it? 

Scatter plots are used to visualise relationships between numerical variables, to show how much one variable is affected by another.

Creating a Scatter plot

A simple scatter plot is created by placing at least one measure on the Columns shelf and at least one measure on the Rows shelf:

Both dimension and measures can be placed on the shelves, Tableau always places the measures to the right of the dimensions, this creates a matrix of scatter plots:

By default, Tableau uses the shape mark to visualise a scatter plot, however, a scatter plot can use several mark types. Depending on the data or what you are trying to visualise, you might want to use another mark type such as a circle or a triangle.

This is how you create a scatter plot to compare sales to profit:

  1. Drag the Profit measure to Columns.

Tableau aggregates the measure as a sum and creates a horizontal axis.

  1. Drag the Sales measure to Rows.

Tableau aggregates the measure as a sum and creates a vertical axis.

When you plot one number against another, you are comparing two numbers; the resulting chart plots x and y coordinates.

This creates a one-mark scatter plot:

3. Drag the Segment dimension to Color on the Marks card.

This separates the data into three marks that are encoded using colour, one representing each dimension member.

4. Drag the Region dimension to Detail on the Marks card:

This shows more marks on the view. The number of marks shows the number of distinct regions multiplied by the number of segments.

Alternatively, you can also drop the Region dimension on Shape instead of Detail:

The Segment is encoded by colour and the Region is encoded by the shape.


5. A trend line can be added to the view to provide a statistical definition of the relationship between the two numerical values. A trend line can be added from the Analytics pane, drag the Trend Line model to the view, and then drop it on the model type.

For this example, Tableau adds three linear trend lines—one for each colour that you are using to distinguish the three categories.


6. Hover the cursor over the trend lines to see statistical information about the model that was used to create the line:

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