Two background colors on a nvd3 line chart

by Stephane Robino on Sat, 9 May 2015

NVD3 (running with d3.js) is a great plug-in to easily create nice chart. Here we will see how to set two different background colors that visually separate past results and future predictions on a line chart.


Create a chart with NVD3

First we need to create a simple HTML file that contains a SVG node where where the chart will be displayed into. Of course we also need to add links to d3.js and nv.d3.js scripts.

<!DOCTYPE html>

<pre id="nvd3_chart">
    <svg style="height: 500px; width: 800px;"></svg>

<script src="" charset="utf-8"></script>
<script src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
<!-- We will add the code detailed in the remainder of the post here -->

We will populate the graph with the following data, which we just embed inline.

var datas = [
  {key: 'data1',
  values: [{x: '2015/03/11', y: 92},
        {x: '2015/03/18', y: 10},
        {x: '2015/03/25', y: 21},
        {x: '2015/04/01', y: 0},
        {x: '2015/04/08', y: 0},
  {key: 'data2',
  values: [{x: '2015/03/11', y: 56},
        {x: '2015/03/18', y: 22},
        {x: '2015/03/25', y: 0},
        {x: '2015/04/01', y: 0},
        {x: '2015/04/08', y: 0},
  {key: 'data3',
  values: [{x: '2015/03/11', y: 64},
        {x: '2015/03/18', y: 98},
        {x: '2015/03/25', y: 36},
        {x: '2015/04/01', y: 0},
        {x: '2015/04/08', y: 0},

We start from the NVD3 line chart example and modify it to fit our context.

var datas = [...]; // Previous datas object

function update_chart(data){
  nv.addGraph(function() {
    var width = 800, height = 500;

    var values = data[0].values;

    // Parse date string to Date
    for( j=0 ; j < data.length ; ++j ){
        for( i = 0; i < values.length; ++i ) {
            values = data[j].values;
            values[i].x = new Date(values[i].x);

    // get max and min dates - this assumes data is sorted
    var maxDate = values[0].x,
    minDate = values[values.length-1].x;

    var chart = nv.models.lineChart()
      .x(function(d) { return d.x; })
      .y(function(d) { return d.y; })

    chart.margin({left: 75});//Margin to see yAxis title

    // xAxis configuration
      .tickFormat(function(d) { return d3.time.format('%x')(new Date(d)); });

    // yAxis configuration

    // draw chart'#nvd3_chart svg')

    return chart;


Update background of the chart

In order to separate past performance and future predictions, we will draw an extraneous rectangle with the correct background color. The most important is to get the scale of our xAxis to place rectangle on the correct position

Let's update our script with the new code that is executed after the chart has been drawn.

var datas = [...]; // Previous datas object

function update_chart(data){
  nv.addGraph(function() {


    // draw chart'#nvd3_chart svg')

    // Get now timestamp
    // position will be updated each time
    var date_now = (new Date()).getTime();

    // If we want a fixed position
    // var date_now = (new Date("2015/03/18")).getTime();

    // Get position of now date on xAxis thanks to scale func
    var date_now_xposition = chart.xAxis.scale()(date_now);

    // When nvd3 draw chart it append a rectangle of the inner
    // size of our chart (without label axis or title)
    // let's get it to know height and width of our rectangle
    var rect_background = document.getElementsByClassName("nvd3")[0].firstChild.firstChild;

    // draw a background rectangle to indicate the future
    // Here we will append new rectangle to ".nv-groups"
    // this allow to avoid to break nvd3 hover fearure on chart'.nv-groups').append("rect")
      .attr("x", date_now_xpos) // start rectangle on the good position
      .attr("y", 0) // no vertical translate
      .attr("width", rect_back.getAttribute('width') - date_now_xpos) // correct size
      .attr("height", rect_back.getAttribute('height')) // full height
      .attr("fill", "rgba(66,139,202, 0.2)"); // transparency color to see grid

    return chart;

That's it! Now we have a line chart with two distinct background color to visually distinguish past and future.

In the tips and tricks section, you might also be interested by a jQuery plugin to annotate images, or validation in multiple step HTML form with jQuery.

More technical posts are also available on our blog, as well as business lessons we learnt running a subscription hosting platform.

by Stephane Robino on Sat, 9 May 2015

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