Quickstart: Compose and Django

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

This quick-start guide demonstrates how to use Docker Compose to set up and run a simple Django/PostgreSQL app. Before starting, you’ll need to have Compose installed.

Define the project components

For this project, you need to create a Dockerfile, a Python dependencies file, and a docker-compose.yml file. (You can use either a .yml or .yaml extension for this file.)

  1. Create an empty project directory.

    You can name the directory something easy for you to remember. This directory is the context for your application image. The directory should only contain resources to build that image.

  2. Create a new file called Dockerfile in your project directory.

    The Dockerfile defines an application’s image content via one or more build commands that configure that image. Once built, you can run the image in a container. For more information on Dockerfiles, see the Docker user guide and the Dockerfile reference.

  3. Add the following content to the Dockerfile.

     FROM python:2.7
     RUN mkdir /code
     WORKDIR /code
     ADD requirements.txt /code/
     RUN pip install -r requirements.txt
     ADD . /code/

    This Dockerfile starts with a Python 2.7 base image. The base image is modified by adding a new code directory. The base image is further modified by installing the Python requirements defined in the requirements.txt file.

  4. Save and close the Dockerfile.

  5. Create a requirements.txt in your project directory.

    This file is used by the RUN pip install -r requirements.txt command in your Dockerfile.

  6. Add the required software in the file.

  7. Save and close the requirements.txt file.

  8. Create a file called docker-compose.yml in your project directory.

    The docker-compose.yml file describes the services that make your app. In this example those services are a web server and database. The compose file also describes which Docker images these services use, how they link together, any volumes they might need mounted inside the containers. Finally, the docker-compose.yml file describes which ports these services expose. See the docker-compose.yml reference for more information on how this file works.

  9. Add the following configuration to the file.

     version: '2'
         image: postgres
         build: .
         command: python manage.py runserver
           - .:/code
           - "8000:8000"
           - db

    This file defines two services: The db service and the web service.

  10. Save and close the docker-compose.yml file.

Create a Django project

In this step, you create a Django starter project by building the image from the build context defined in the previous procedure.

  1. Change to the root of your project directory.

  2. Create the Django project using the docker-compose command.

     docker-compose run web django-admin.py startproject composeexample .

    This instructs Compose to run django-admin.py startproject composeexample in a container, using the web service’s image and configuration. Because the web image doesn’t exist yet, Compose builds it from the current directory, as specified by the build: . line in docker-compose.yml.

    Once the web service image is built, Compose runs it and executes the django-admin.py startproject command in the container. This command instructs Django to create a set of files and directories representing a Django project.

  3. After the docker-compose command completes, list the contents of your project.

     $ ls -l
     drwxr-xr-x 2 root   root   composeexample
     -rw-rw-r-- 1 user   user   docker-compose.yml
     -rw-rw-r-- 1 user   user   Dockerfile
     -rwxr-xr-x 1 root   root   manage.py
     -rw-rw-r-- 1 user   user   requirements.txt

If you are running Docker on Linux, the files django-admin created are owned by root. This happens because the container runs as the root user. Change the ownership of the new files.

      sudo chown -R $USER:$USER .

If you are running Docker on Mac or Windows, you should already have ownership of all files, including those generated by django-admin. List the files just verify this.

    $ ls -l
    total 32
    -rw-r--r--  1 user  staff  145 Feb 13 23:00 Dockerfile
    drwxr-xr-x  6 user  staff  204 Feb 13 23:07 composeexample
    -rw-r--r--  1 user  staff  159 Feb 13 23:02 docker-compose.yml
    -rwxr-xr-x  1 user  staff  257 Feb 13 23:07 manage.py
    -rw-r--r--  1 user  staff   16 Feb 13 23:01 requirements.txt

Connect the database

In this section, you set up the database connection for Django.

  1. In your project directory, edit the composeexample/settings.py file.

  2. Replace the DATABASES = ... with the following:

     DATABASES = {
         'default': {
             'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.postgresql',
             'NAME': 'postgres',
             'USER': 'postgres',
             'HOST': 'db',
             'PORT': 5432,

    These settings are determined by the postgres Docker image specified in docker-compose.yml.

  3. Save and close the file.

  4. Run the docker-compose up command.

     $ docker-compose up
     Starting composepractice_db_1...
     Starting composepractice_web_1...
     Attaching to composepractice_db_1, composepractice_web_1
     db_1  | PostgreSQL init process complete; ready for start up.
     db_1  | LOG:  database system is ready to accept connections
     db_1  | LOG:  autovacuum launcher started
     web_1 | Django version 1.8.4, using settings 'composeexample.settings'
     web_1 | Starting development server at
     web_1 | Quit the server with CONTROL-C.

    At this point, your Django app should be running at port 8000 on your Docker host. If you are using a Docker Machine VM, you can use the docker-machine ip MACHINE_NAME to get the IP address.

    Django example

More Compose documentation

chat icon Feedback? Suggestions? Can't find something in the docs?
Edit this page Request docs changes Get support
Rate this page: