How to Setup Docker in a Django Project: Simple Technical Guide

How to Setup Docker in a Django Project: Simple Technical Guide

Allan Porras
Allan Porras Apr 16 2023 • 4 min read

Django is a popular web framework for Python that is widely used for building scalable and robust web applications. Docker, on the other hand, is a containerization platform that provides a consistent and reproducible environment for software development, testing, and deployment.

By combining these two technologies, you can create a powerful and efficient workflow for developing and deploying your Django projects.

Docker provides an isolated environment for your Django project that contains all the necessary dependencies and libraries, which can be easily deployed to various platforms, such as cloud servers, virtual machines, or even local machines. This approach helps to eliminate the potential conflicts between different versions of dependencies and libraries and ensures the consistency of your development and deployment environments.

In this article, we will discuss how to set up Docker for your Django project. We will cover the basics of Docker and containerization, how to create a Dockerfile for your Django project, how to build and run the Docker image, and how to access your Django application inside the Docker container.

We will also discuss some best practices for using Docker with Django, including how to manage environment variables and how to use Docker Compose for multi-container applications.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced Django developer, this article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to set up Docker for your Django project and take your development and deployment process to the next level.

Docker + Django


Before we start, you should have the following installed on your machine:

Setting up a Django project

Assuming you already have a Django project created, navigate to the project directory in your terminal and create a new file named Dockerfile. The Dockerfile will contain the instructions for building the Docker container.

Creating a Dockerfile

The first thing we need to do is define the base image. For our purposes, we will use the official Python 3 image. This image contains the Python runtime and the pip package manager. Add the following to your Dockerfile:

FROM python:3

Next, we need to copy our project code into the container. Add the following to your Dockerfile:

COPY . /app

This will copy all the files in the current directory into the /app directory inside the container. The WORKDIR command sets the working directory to /app.

We also need to install our project dependencies. Add the following to your Dockerfile:

RUN pip install -r requirements.txt

This will install all the packages listed in requirements.txt. Make sure you have a requirements.txt file in your project directory.

Finally, we need to expose the port that Django is running on. By default, Django runs on port 8000. Add the following to your Dockerfile:


Here's the complete Dockerfile:

FROM python:3
COPY . /app
RUN pip install -r requirements.txt

Building the Docker image

Now that we have a Dockerfile, we can build the Docker image. In your terminal, navigate to the project directory and run the following command:

docker build -t my-django-app .

This will build the Docker image and tag it with the name my-django-app.

Running the Docker container

Now that we have a Docker image, we can run it as a container. In your terminal, run the following command:

docker run -p 8000:8000 my-django-app

This will start the container and map port 8000 on your machine to port 8000 inside the container. You should see the Django development server start up in your terminal.

Accessing the Django application

To access the Django application, open your web browser and navigate to http://localhost:8000. You should see your Django application running.

Best Practices for Using Docker with Django

Here are some best practices for using Docker with Django

  1. Use environment variables: Use environment variables to store sensitive information, such as database passwords or API keys, instead of hardcoding them in your code. This way, you can easily change the values without modifying your code or Dockerfile. You can pass environment variables to the Docker container using the -e flag when running the docker run command.
  2. Keep your Dockerfile minimal: Only include the necessary dependencies and libraries in your Dockerfile. Avoid installing unnecessary packages or running additional commands that are not required for your application. This will help keep your Docker image small and reduce the overall build time.
  3. Use Docker Compose for multi-container applications: If your Django project requires additional services, such as a database or a caching layer, consider using Docker Compose to define and manage multiple containers. Docker Compose allows you to define the configuration of your multi-container application in a single file and start or stop all the containers with a single command.
  4. Use volumes for persistent data: Use Docker volumes to store persistent data, such as media files or user uploads. This way, you can easily back up or migrate your data without affecting the Docker container. You can create a volume using the docker volume create command and mount it inside the container using the -v flag when running the docker run command.
  5. Use a .dockerignore file: Use a .dockerignore file to exclude unnecessary files or directories from being copied into the Docker container. This will help reduce the overall build time and the size of your Docker image. Similar to .gitignore, you can specify files or directories to ignore using wildcards or specific file names.

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