Paperclip is intended as an easy file attachment library for ActiveRecord. The intent behind it was to keep setup as easy as possible and to treat files as much like other attributes as possible. This means they aren't saved to their final locations on disk, nor are they deleted if set to nil, until ActiveRecord::Base#save is called. It manages validations based on size and presence, if required. It can transform its assigned image into thumbnails if needed, and the prerequisites are as simple as installing ImageMagick (which, for most modern Unix-based systems, is as easy as installing the right packages). Attached files are saved to the filesystem and referenced in the browser by an easily understandable specification, which has sensible and useful defaults.

See the documentation for has_attached_file in Paperclip::ClassMethods for more detailed options.

Quick Start

In your model:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_attached_file :avatar, :styles => { :medium => "300x300>", :thumb => "100x100>" }

In your migrations:

class AddAvatarColumnsToUser < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def self.up
    add_column :users, :avatar_file_name,    :string
    add_column :users, :avatar_content_type, :string
    add_column :users, :avatar_file_size,    :integer
    add_column :users, :avatar_updated_at,   :datetime

  def self.down
    remove_column :users, :avatar_file_name
    remove_column :users, :avatar_content_type
    remove_column :users, :avatar_file_size
    remove_column :users, :avatar_updated_at

In your edit and new views:

<% form_for :user, @user, :url => user_path, :html => { :multipart => true } do |form| %>
  <%= form.file_field :avatar %>
<% end %>

In your controller:

def create
  @user = User.create( params[:user] )

In your show view:

<%= image_tag @user.avatar.url %>
<%= image_tag @user.avatar.url(:medium) %>
<%= image_tag @user.avatar.url(:thumb) %>


The basics of paperclip are quite simple: Declare that your model has an attachment with the has_attached_file method, and give it a name. Paperclip will wrap up up to four attributes (all prefixed with that attachment's name, so you can have multiple attachments per model if you wish) and give the a friendly front end. The attributes are <attachment>_file_name, <attachment>_file_size, <attachment>_content_type, and <attachment>_updated_at. Only <attachment>_file_name is required for paperclip to operate. More information about the options to has_attached_file is available in the documentation of Paperclip::ClassMethods.

Attachments can be validated with Paperclip's validation methods, validates_attachment_presence, validates_attachment_content_type, and validates_attachment_size.


The files that are assigned as attachments are, by default, placed in the directory specified by the :path option to has_attached_file. By default, this location is “:rails_root/public/system/:attachment/:id/:style/:filename”. This location was chosen because on standard Capistrano deployments, the public/system directory is symlinked to the app's shared directory, meaning it will survive between deployments. For example, using that :path, you may have a file at


NOTE: This is a change from previous versions of Paperclip, but is overall a safer choice for the default file store.

You may also choose to store your files using Amazon's S3 service. You can find more information about S3 storage at the description for Paperclip::Storage::S3.

Files on the local filesystem (and in the Rails app's public directory) will be available to the internet at large. If you require access control, it's possible to place your files in a different location. You will need to change both the :path and :url options in order to make sure the files are unavailable to the public. Both :path and :url allow the same set of interpolated variables.

Post Processing

Paperclip supports an extensible selection of post-processors. When you define a set of styles for an attachment, by default it is expected that those “styles” are actually “thumbnails”. However, you can do much more than just thumbnail images. By defining a subclass of Paperclip::Processor, you can perform any processing you want on the files that are attached. Any file in your Rails app's lib/paperclip_processors directory is automatically loaded by paperclip, allowing you to easily define custom processors. You can specify a processor with the :processors option to has_attached_file:

has_attached_file :scan, :styles => { :text => { :quality => :better } },
                         :processors => [:ocr]

This would load the hypothetical class Paperclip::Ocr, which would have the hash “{ :quality => :better }” passed to it along with the uploaded file. For more information about defining processors, see Paperclip::Processor.

The default processor is Paperclip::Thumbnail. For backwards compatability reasons, you can pass a single geometry string or an array containing a geometry and a format, which the file will be converted to, like so:

has_attached_file :avatar, :styles => { :thumb => ["32x32#", :png] }

This will convert the “thumb” style to a 32x32 square in png format, regardless of what was uploaded. If the format is not specified, it is kept the same (i.e. jpgs will remain jpgs).

Multiple processors can be specified, and they will be invoked in the order they are defined in the :processors array. Each successive processor will be given the result of the previous processor's execution. All processors will receive the same parameters, which are what you define in the :styles hash. For example, assuming we had this definition:

has_attached_file :scan, :styles => { :text => { :quality => :better } },
                         :processors => [:rotator, :ocr]

then both the :rotator processor and the :ocr processor would receive the options “{ :quality => :better }”. This parameter may not mean anything to one or more or the processors, and they are expected to ignore it.

NOTE: Because processors operate by turning the original attachment into the styles, no processors will be run if there are no styles defined.


Before and after the Post Processing step, Paperclip calls back to the model with a few callbacks, allowing the model to change or cancel the processing step. The callbacks are “before_post_process” and “after_post_process” (which are called before and after the processing of each attachment), and the attachment-specific “before_<attachment>_post_process” and “after_<attachment>_post_process”. The callbacks are intended to be as close to normal ActiveRecord callbacks as possible, so if you return false (specifically

  • returning nil is not the same) in a before_ filter, the post processing step

will halt. Returning false in an after_ filter will not halt anything, but you can access the model and the attachment if necessary.

NOTE: Post processing will not even start if the attachment is not valid according to the validations. Your callbacks and processors will only be called with valid attachments.

Optional Fields

If the columns <attachment>_width and <attachment>_height are present in the database, they will be filled with the width/height of the image, respectively. You can then query the width/height of the image with:




If the columns are not present or the attachment is not an image, then these will return nil.


If you'd like to contribute a feature or bugfix: Thanks! To make sure your fix/feature has a high chance of being included, please read the following guidelines:

  1. Ask on the mailing list, or post a new GitHub Issue.

  2. Make sure there are tests! We will not accept any patch that is not tested. It's a rare time when explicit tests aren't needed. If you have questions about writing tests for paperclip, please ask the mailing list.