Yuri Astrakhan edited this page Aug 15, 2017 · 53 revisions

This wiki documents Vega version 2. For Vega 3 documentation, see


Marks are the basic visual building block of a visualization. Similar to other mark-based frameworks such as Protovis, marks provide basic shapes whose properties can be set according to backing data. Mark properties can be simple constants or data fields, and Scales can be used to map from data to property values. The basic supported mark types are rectangles (rect), plotting symbols (symbol), general paths or polygons (path), circular arcs (arc), filled areas (area), lines (line), horizontal and vertical rules (rule), images (image) and text labels (text).

Each mark supports a set of visual properties which determine the position and appearance of mark instances. Typically one mark instance is generated per input data element; the exceptions are the line and area mark types, which represent multiple data elements as a contiguous line or area shape.

There are three primary property sets: enter, exit and update. Enter properties are evaluated when data is processed for the first time and a mark instance is newly added to a scene. Similarly, exit properties are evaluated when the data backing a mark is removed, and so the mark is leaving the visual scene. The update properties are evaluated for all existing (non-exiting) mark instances. To better understand how enter, exit and update sets work, readers may wish to peruse related D3 tutorials. In addition, an optional hover set determines visual properties when the mouse cursor hovers over a mark instance. Upon mouse out, the update set is applied.

There is also a special group mark type (group) that can contain other marks, as well as local scale, axis and legend definitions. Groups can be used to create visualizations consisting of grouped or repeated elements; examples include stacked graphs (each stack is a separate group containing a series of data values) and small multiples displays (each plot is contained in its own group). See the Group Marks page for more.

A mark definition typically looks something like this:

  "type": "rect",
  "from": {"data": "table"},
  "properties": {
    "enter": {...},
    "exit": {...},
    "update": {...},
    "hover": {...}

Top-Level Mark Properties

Property Type Description
type String The mark type (rect, symbol, path, arc, area, line, rule, image, text, group)
name String A unique name for the mark instance (optional). As of Vega v1.4.0, the SVG renderer adds the unaltered name value as CSS class names on the enclosing SVG group (g) element for mark instances.
description String An optional description of this mark. Can be used as a comment.
from Object An object describing the data this mark set should visualize. The supported properties are data (the name of the data set to use) and transform (to provide an array of data transformations to apply). If the data property is not defined, the mark will attempt to inherit data from its parent group mark, if any. Otherwise, a default, single element data set is assumed.
properties Object An object containing the property set definitions.
key String A data field to use as a unique key for data binding. When a visualization's data is updated, the key value will be used to match data elements to existing mark instances. Use a key field to enable object constancy for transitions over dynamic data.
delay ValueRef → Number The transition delay, in milliseconds, for mark updates. The delay can be set in conjunction with the backing data (possibly through a scale transform) to provide staggered animations.
ease String The transition easing function for mark updates. The supported easing types are linear, quad, cubic, sin, exp, circle, and bounce, plus the modifiers in, out, in-out, and out-in. The default is cubic-in-out. For more details please see the D3 ease function documentation.

Mark Property Sets

The rest of this page describes the available mark properties in greater detail. All visual mark property definitions are specified as name-value pairs in a property set (such as update, enter, or exit). The name is simply the name of the visual property. The value should be a ValueRef or Production Rule, as defined below.

Value References

A value reference (or ValueRef) specifies the value for a given mark property. The value may be a constant or a value in the backing data, and may include the application of a scale transform to either.

Name Type Description
value * A constant value. If field is specified, this value is ignored.
field String | Object A field (property) from which to pull a data value. The corresponding data set is determined by the mark's from property. When specified as String, the value is pulled from the current datum. Dot notation ("price.min") is used to access nested properties; if a dot character is actually part of the property name, you must escape the dot with a backslash: "some\.field". To pull value from the enclosing group mark's element or datum, this can be specified as an object. (See its properties below.)
scale String | Object The name of a scale transform to apply. If the input is an object, it indicates a field value from which to dynamically lookup the scale name and follows the format described above. For example {"datum": "s"} will use the value of s on the current mark's data as the scale name, whereas {"parent": "t"} will use the value of t on the current group's data as the scale name.
mult Number A multiplier for the value, equivalent to (mult * value). Multipliers are applied after any scale transformation.
offset Number A simple additive offset to bias the final value, equivalent to (value + offset). Offsets are added after any scale transformation and multipliers.
band Boolean If true, and scale is specified, uses the range band of the scale as the retrieved value. This option is useful for determining widths with a band scale (an ordinal scale where points is false).

If the field property is an object, the following properties may be used:

Property Type Description
datum String | Object Perform a lookup on the current data value (the default operation when field is a string).
group String | Object Use a property of the enclosing group mark element (e.g., "field": {"group": "width"} or "field": {"group": "height"}).
parent String | Object Use a property of the enclosing group mark's datum (e.g., "field": {"parent": "fieldInParentData"}.

These properties can be arbitrarily nested in order to perform indirect field lookups. For example, "field": {"parent": {"datum": "f"}} will first retrieve the value of the f field on the current mark's data object. This value will then be used as the property name to lookup on the enclosing group mark's datum.

Advanced Use: group and parent properties can be given an optional level to access grandparents, and higher ancestors. For example, "field": {"parent": "f", "level": 2} will use the value of the f field of the grandparent's datum. By default, level = 1 (i.e., parents).


  • {"value": 5} - The constant value 5.
  • {"field": "price"} - The value of price, for the current datum.
  • {"field": "index", "mult": 20} - The value of index for the current datum, multiplied by 20.
  • {"scale": "x", "value": 0} - The result of running the value 0 through the scale named x.
  • {"scale": "y", "field": "price"} - The result of running price for the current datum through the scale named y.
  • {"scale": "x", "band": true} - The range band width of the ordinal scale x. Note that the scale must be ordinal!
  • {"scale": "x", "band": true, "offset": -1} - The range band width of the ordinal scale x, reduced (negative offset) by one pixel.

Color References

Typically color values are specified as a single value indicating an RGB color. However, sometimes a designer may wish to target specific color fields or use a different color space. In this case a special Value Reference format can be used. In the following example, we can set the red and blue channels of an RGB color as constants, and determine the green channel from a scale transform.

"fill": {
 "r": {"value": 255},
 "g": {"scale": "green", "field": "g"},
 "b": {"value": 0}

Vega supports the following color spaces:

Name Description
RGB with properties "r", "g", and "b".
HSL (hue, saturation, lightness), with properties "h", "s", and "l".
CIE LAB with properties "l", "a", and "b". A perceptual color space with distances based on human color judgments. The "L" dimension represents luminance, the "A" dimension represents green-red opposition and the "B" dimension represents blue-yellow opposition.
HCL (hue, chroma, lightness) with properties "h", "c", and "l". This is a version of LAB which uses polar coordinates for the AB plane.


For String-type properties (e.g., text for text marks), a special template property can be used instead of a Value Reference. The specified template string can make use of handlebars, such as {{datum.price}}, to refer to data fields. datum, parent, and group are available for use within the handlebars, and dot notation may be used to refer to nested properties.

Handlebars also support a number of filters for text transformation. Filters are specified within a template variable using a pipe-delimited syntax ({{property | filter1 | filter2 }}). Some filters may take one or more arguments ({{property | filter:arg1,arg2 }}). The available filters are:

Name Description
length return the length of a string.
lower maps a string to lowercase (calls String.toLowerCase()).
upper maps a string to uppercase (calls String.toUpperCase()).
lower-locale maps a string to lowercase (calls String.toLocaleLowerCase()).
upper-locale maps a string to uppercase (calls String.toLocaleUpperCase()).
trim remove whitespace at the beginning and end of a string (calls String.trim()).
left:n returns the n left-most characters of a string.
right:n returns the n right-most characters of a string.
mid:n returns the n central characters of a string.
slice:a,b returns a substring according to String.slice(a, b).
pad:n,pos pads the string with whitespace using the provided length (n) and optional position argument (pos).
truncate:n,pos truncates the string with the provided length (n) and an optional position argument (pos).
number:fmt formats the string as a number using the provided format (fmt) string. The filter uses D3's formatting utilities and accepts a valid D3 number format pattern.
time:fmt formats the string as a date/time using the provided format (fmt) string. The filter uses D3's time formatting utilities and accepts a valid D3 time format pattern.

For example,

"text": {
  "template": "{{}} was bought on {{parent.stamp|time:'%A'}}."

Production Rules

Visual properties can also be set by evaluating an if-then-else style chain of production rules. Rules consist of an array of ValueRef objects, each of which must contain an additional test property. A single ValueRef, without a test property, can be specified as the final element within the rule to serve as the else condition. The value of this property should be a predicate expression, that evaluates to true or false. The visual property is set to the ValueRef corresponding to the first predicate that evaluates to true within the rule. If none do, the property is set to the final, predicate-less, ValueRef if one is specified. For example, the following specification sets a mark's fill colour using a production rule:

"fill": [
    "test": "indata('selectedPoints', datum._id, 'id')",
    "scale": "c", 
    "field": "species"
  {"value": "grey"}

Here, if the ID of a particular data point is found is the selectedPoints data source, the fill color is determined by a scale transform. Otherwise, the mark instance is filled grey.

Shared Visual Properties

Property Type Description
x ValueRef → Number The first (typically left-most) x-coordinate.
x2 ValueRef → Number The second (typically right-most) x-coordinate.
xc ValueRef → Number The center x-coordinate (incompatible with x and x2).
width ValueRef → Number The width of the mark (if supported).
y ValueRef → Number The first (typically top-most) y-coordinate.
y2 ValueRef → Number The second (typically bottom-most) y-coordinate.
yc ValueRef → Number The center y-coordinate (incompatible with x and x2).
height ValueRef → Number The height of the mark (if supported).
opacity ValueRef → Number The overall opacity.
fill ValueRef → Color The fill color.
fillOpacity ValueRef → Number The fill opacity.
stroke ValueRef → Color The stroke color.
strokeWidth ValueRef → Number The stroke width, in pixels.
strokeOpacity ValueRef → Number The stroke opacity.
strokeDash ValueRef → Array An array of alternating stroke, space lengths for creating dashed or dotted lines.
strokeDashOffset ValueRef → Number The offset (in pixels) into which to begin drawing with the stroke dash array.
cursor ValueRef → String Sets the mouse pointer type when used in the hover property set. Any valid CSS cursor types can be specified.

For marks involving Cartesian extents (e.g., rect marks), the horizontal dimensions are determined by (in order of precedence) the x and x2 properties, the x and width properties, and the x2 and width properties. If all three of x, x2 and width are specified, the width value is ignored. The y, y2 and height properties are treated similarly. For marks without Cartesian extents (e.g., path, arc, etc) the same calculations are applied, but are only used to determine the mark's ultimate x and y position. That is, a width property may affect the ultimate position, but otherwise is not visualized. When using x and x2 (and y & y2), we recommend specifying them within the same property set (e.g., both within enter or both within update). Spreading them across property sets may yield unexpected behaviour.

Note: at the time of writing, the strokeDash and strokeDashOffset use bleeding-edge HTML5 canvas support, which can vary across browsers. Browsers with canvas implementations that do not support line dash or line dash offset will ignore these properties. Firefox only supports strokeDash (through the mozDash proprietary canvas extension), not strokeDashOffset.


  • (No additional properties.)


Property Type Description
size ValueRef → Number The pixel area of the symbol. For example: in the case of circles, the radius is determined in part by the square root of the size value.
shape ValueRef → String The symbol shape to use. One of circle (default), square, cross, diamond, triangle-up, or triangle-down


Property Type Description
path ValueRef → PathString A path definition in the form of an SVG Path string.


Property Type Description
innerRadius ValueRef → Number The inner radius of the arc, in pixels.
outerRadius ValueRef → Number The outer radius of the arc, in pixels.
startAngle ValueRef → Number The start angle of the arc, in radians. A value of 0 indicates up or "north", increasing values proceed clockwise.
endAngle ValueRef → Number The end angle of the arc, in radians. A value of 0 indicates up or "north", increasing values proceed clockwise.


Property Type Description
orient ValueRef → String The orientation of this area mark. One of horizontal or vertical (the default). With a vertical orientation, an area mark is defined by the x, y, and y2 properties; with a horizontal orientation, the x, x2, and y properties need to be specified instead.
interpolate ValueRef → String The line interpolation method to use. One of linear, step-before, step-after, basis, basis-open, cardinal, cardinal-open, monotone.
tension ValueRef → Number Depending on the interpolation type, sets the tension parameter.


Property Type Description
interpolate ValueRef → String The line interpolation method to use. One of linear, step-before, step-after, basis, basis-open, basis-closed, bundle, cardinal, cardinal-open, cardinal-closed, monotone.
tension ValueRef → Number Depending on the interpolation type, sets the tension parameter.


Rule marks offer a convenient way to draw horizontal and vertical lines (e.g., they are used to draw axis grid lines). For horizontal rules, the x, x2, and y properties must be specified. Correspondingly, the x, y, and y2 properties jointly produce vertical rules.


Property Type Description
url ValueRef → String The URL from which to retrieve the image.
align ValueRef → String The horizontal alignment of the image. One of left, right, center.
baseline ValueRef → String The vertical alignment of the image. One of top, middle, bottom.


Property Type Description
text ValueRef → String The text to display.
align ValueRef → String The horizontal alignment of the text. One of left, right, center.
baseline ValueRef → String The vertical alignment of the text. One of top, middle, bottom.
dx ValueRef → Number The horizontal offset, in pixels, between the text label and its anchor point. The offset is applied after rotation by the angle property.
dy ValueRef → Number The vertical offset, in pixels, between the text label and its anchor point. The offset is applied after rotation by the angle property.
radius ValueRef → Number Polar coordinate radial offset, in pixels, of the text label from the origin determined by the x and y properties.
theta ValueRef → Number Polar coordinate angle, in radians, of the text label from the origin determined by the x and y properties. Values for theta follow the same convention of arc mark startAngle and endAngle properties: angles are measured in radians, with 0 indicating "north".
angle ValueRef → Number The rotation angle of the text, in degrees.
font ValueRef → String The typeface to set the text in (e.g., Helvetica Neue).
fontSize ValueRef → Number The font size, in pixels.
fontWeight ValueRef → String The font weight (e.g., bold).
fontStyle ValueRef → String The font style (e.g., italic).


Group marks have the same visual properties as rect marks. They can also contain children marks, as well as scales, axes and legends. See the Group Marks page for more details.