Change user image or avatar

By default django-comments-xtd uses its own template filters to fetch user profile images from Gravatar and put them in comments. It is a simple solution that makes the app dependant on an external service. But it is a good solution when the only confirmed record we get from the person who posted the comment is an email address.

This page describes how to setup django-comments-xtd so that user images displayed in comments come from other sources. For such purpose, in addition to the default filters, we will use django-avatar. Your Django project can use another application to procure user images, perhaps with a built-in solution or via a social service. Just adapt your case to the methodology exposed here.


This how-to will combine both solutions, template filters provided with django-comments-xtd and template tags provided with django-avatar, to fetch user images for two different type of comments, those posted by registered users and those posted by mere visitors:

  • Avatar images in comments posted by non-registered users will be fetched from Gravatar via django-comments-xtd filters, as the only record we get from those visitors is their email address.

  • On the other hand avatar images in comments posted by registered users will be provided by django-avatar templatetags, as django-avatar’s templatetags require a user object to fetch the user’s image.

Django-avatar will make those images available from different sources depending on how we customize the app. We can add user images directly using Django’s admin interface or we can let the app fetch them via providers, from social networks or writing our own specific provider function.

For the purpose of this how-to we will use the Comp project introduced in the Demo projects page. Before you continue reading please, visit the samples Setup page and get the Comp project up and running.

Add django-avatar to the Comp project

Install django-avatar with pip install django-avatar, and be sure that the comp/ module contains the following entries:

MEDIA_ROOT = os.path.join(PROJECT_DIR, "media")
MEDIA_URL = '/media/'

Then run the migrate command to create django-avatar tables: python migrate.

Also change the comp/ module to serve media files in development and get access to users’ images stored with django-avatar:

from django.conf import settings
from django.conf.urls.static import static


# At the bottom of the module.
if settings.DEBUG:
    urlpatterns += static(settings.MEDIA_URL, document_root=settings.MEDIA_ROOT)

When using HTML templates to render the comments

If your project uses django-comments-xtd HTML templates to render comments, like the Comp project’s quotes app does, then you only have to adapt your project’s HTML templates to use django-avatar.

Let’s go then through the following changes:

  • Change the comment_tree.html template.

  • Create the comments/preview.html template.

  • Create the django_comments_xtd/comment.html template (bonus).

Change the comment_tree.html template

The Comp project uses the render_xtdcomment_tree template tag to render the tree of comments in quotes/quote_detail.html. render_xtdcomment_tree in turn renders the django_comments_xtd/comment_tree.html template.

The comp project overrides the comment_tree.html template. Let’s edit it (in comp/templates/django_comments_xtd) to make it start as follows:

{% load l10n %}
{% load i18n %}
{% load comments %}
{% load avatar_tags %}
{% load comments_xtd %}

{% for item in comments %}
<div class="media">
  <a name="c{{ }}"></a>
    {% if item.comment.user and item.comment.user|has_avatar %}
      src="{% avatar_url item.comment.user 48 %}"
    {% else %}
      src="{{ item.comment.user_email|xtd_comment_gravatar_url }}"
    {% endif %}
    class="mr-3" height="48" width="48"
  <div class="media-body">

Create the comments/preview.html template

We also want to apply the same logic to the comments/preview.html template. The preview template gets rendered when the user clicks on the preview button in the comment form.

The preview.html template is initially served by django-contrib-comments, but it is overriden by a copy provided from django-comments-xtd templates directory.

For our purpose we have to modify that version, let’s copy it from django-comments-xtd’s templates directory into the comp project templates directory:

$ cp django_comments_xtd/templates/comments/preview.html example/comp/templates/comments/

And edit the template so that the <div class="media"> starts like this:

{% load avatar_tags %}


      <div class="media">
          {% if request.user|has_avatar %}
            src="{% avatar_url request.user 48 %}"
          {% else %}
            src="{{ form.cleaned_data.user_email|xtd_comment_gravatar_url }}"
          {% endif %}
          class="mr-3" width="48" height="48"
        <div class="media-body">


Create the django_comments_xtd/comment.html template

Additionally to the templates used by the quotes app, the Comp project displays a list with the last 5 comments posted to the site, regardless of whether they were sent to the quotes app or the articles app.

In order to get the appropriate avatar images in such a list we need to override the django_comments_xtd/comment.html template:

$ cp django_comments_xtd/templates/django_comments_xtd/comment.html example/comp/templates/django_comments_xtd/

Now edit the template and make the following changes:

{% load avatar_tags %}


<div id="c{{ }}" class="media"><a name="c{{ }}"></a>
    {% if comment.user|has_avatar %}
      src="{% avatar_url comment.user 48 %}"
    {% else %}
      src="{{ comment.user_email|xtd_comment_gravatar_url }}"
    {% endif %}
    height="48" width="48" class="mr-3"
  <div class="media-body">


Test the changes

These changes are enough when your project uses only Django templates to render comments.

Before we can test the solution, let’s add an image for the admin user. Do login in the admin UI with user/password admin/admin and click on the avatar application. Add a squared dimensioned image to the admin user.

Now the project is ready to test the two types of comments, a comment sent as a logged-in user and another one sent as a mere visitor:

  1. While you are still logged in in the admin interface, visit the quotes page, click on any of the links and send a comment as the admin user. Sending a comment as a logged in user does not require comment confirmation by email. Therefore you must see already the comment posted in the page and displaying the image you have added to the avatar model using the admin interface. Let’s now send a comment as a mere visitor.

  2. Logout from the admin interface and send another comment as a mere visitor. If you have an account in Gravatar, use an email address of that account for the comment. This way, when you post the comment, you already know what’s the image that is going to be displayed from Gravatar. Then send the comment. The email message to confirm the comment is displayed in the console. Scroll up in the console to see the plain-text part of the message and copy the confirmation URL. Then paste it in the browser’s location bar to confirm the comment. Once the message is confirmed the comment appears in the quotes page. It should show the image from your Gravatar account.

The message posted as the admin user gets the avatar image from the project’s storage using django-avatar’s template tag. On the other hand, the image sent as a mere visitor, comes directly from Gravatar using django-comments-xtd’s template filter.

When using the web API

If your project uses the web API you have to customize COMMENTS_XTD_API_GET_USER_AVATAR to point to the function that will retrieve the avatar image when the REST API requires it.

The articles app of the Comp project uses the web API (actually, the JavaScript plugin does). We have to customize it so that avatar images for registered users are fetched using django-avatar, while avatar images for mere visitors are fetched using the standard Gravatar approach.

The default value of COMMENTS_XTD_API_GET_USER_AVATAR points to the function get_user_avatar in django_comments_xtd/ That function only uses Gravatar to fetch user images.

To acomplish it we only need to do the following:

  • Implement the function that fetches images’ URLs.


  • Test the changes.

Implement the function that fetches images’ URLs

We want to apply the following logic when fetching images’ URLs:

  • When a registered user sends a comment, the comment.user object points to an instance of that user. There we will use django-avatar to fetch that uses’s image URL.

  • When a mere visitor sends a comment, the comment.user object is None. But we still have the comment.user_email which contains the email address of the visitor. Here we will use django-comments-xtd (which in turn defaults to Gravatar).

Create the module comp/ with the following content:

from avatar.templatetags.avatar_tags import avatar_url
from django_comments_xtd.utils import get_user_avatar

def get_avatar_url(comment):
    ret = None
    if comment.user is not None:
            return avatar_url(comment.user)
        except Exception as exc:
    return get_user_avatar(comment)

If the comment has a user, we return the result of the avatar_url function of django-avatar. This function goes through each of the django-avatar providers setup with AVATAR_PROVIDERS and returns the appropriate image’s URL.

If on the hand the comment does not have a user, we return what Gravatar has on the comment.user_email. If that email address is not registered in Gravatar, it returns the default image (which you can customize too, read in that page from Default Image on).


We have to add a reference to our new function in the settings, to override the content of COMMENTS_XTD_API_GET_USER_AVATAR. Append the following to the comp/ module:

COMMENTS_XTD_API_GET_USER_AVATAR = "comp.utils.get_avatar_url"

Now the web API will use that function instead of the default one.

Test the changes

Now the articles app is ready. If you already added an avatar image for the admin user, as we did in the previous Test the changes section, then send two comments to any of the articles:

  1. Login in as admin/admin in the admin UI, then visit any of the articles page and send a comment as the admin user. See also that the image displayed in the preview corresponds to the image added to the admin user.

  2. Logout from the admin interface and send another comment as a mere visitor. If you have a Gravatar account, use the same email address when posting the comment. The Gravatar image associated should be displayed in the comment.


Images displayed in association with comments can come from customized sources. Adapting your project to use your own sources is a matter of adjusting the templates or writing a new function to feed web API calls.