Docker is a revolutionary tool that has transformed the way we develop, deploy, and distribute software applications. It allows developers to package an application with all its dependencies into a standardized unit for software development known as a Docker image. This blog post aims to guide beginners on how to customize a Docker image using a Dockerfile.

Understanding Docker Images and Dockerfile

Before we delve into the customization process, it's crucial to understand what Docker images and Dockerfiles are. A Docker image is a lightweight, standalone, and executable software package that includes everything needed to run a piece of software, including the code, runtime, system tools, system libraries, and settings.

On the other hand, a Dockerfile is a text document that contains all the commands a user could call on the command line to assemble an image. It automates the process of Docker image creation and allows you to define and control the environment inside your containers.

Creating a Dockerfile

To customize a Docker image, you first need to create a Dockerfile. This file is usually placed in the root of your application directory. To create a Dockerfile, open your preferred text editor, create a new file, and save it as 'Dockerfile' without any extension.

Understanding Dockerfile Structure

A Dockerfile consists of various instructions, each creating a new layer in the image. Some of the basic instructions include:

  1. FROM: This instruction initializes a new build stage and sets the base image for subsequent instructions. For example, FROM ubuntu:18.04.
  2. RUN: This instruction allows you to execute a command-line instruction. For example, RUN apt-get update.
  3. COPY: This instruction copies new files from a source and adds them to the filesystem of the container at the path.
  4. CMD: This instruction provides defaults for an executing container. For example, CMD ["executable","param1","param2"].

Customizing a Docker Image

Now that we understand the basic structure of a Dockerfile, let's customize a Docker image. For this example, we'll create a Docker image with Ubuntu 18.04 as the base image and install Node.js in it.

  1. Set the Base Image

Start your Dockerfile with the FROM instruction to specify your base image. For this example, we'll use Ubuntu 18.04.

FROM ubuntu:18.04
  1. Update the Base Image

Next, use the RUN instruction to update the base image. This step ensures that all the software on the base image is up-to-date.

RUN apt-get update
  1. Install Node.js

Now, let's install Node.js using the RUN instruction.

RUN apt-get install -y nodejs
  1. Verify Installation

Finally, let's verify the installation of Node.js using the CMD instruction.

CMD ["node", "--version"]

Building a Docker Image

After customizing your Docker image, the next step is to build it. Navigate to the directory containing your Dockerfile and run the following command:

docker build -t my-custom-image .

The -t flag lets you tag your image so it's easier to find later. The . tells the Docker build command to look for a Dockerfile in the current directory.


Customizing a Docker image using a Dockerfile is a straightforward process. It involves creating a Dockerfile, defining the base image, and using various instructions like RUN, COPY, and CMD to customize the image. Once the Dockerfile is set up, you can build your Docker image with the docker build command. This beginner-friendly guide should help you get started with Docker image customization. Happy Dockering!