How to optimize Docker Build Context?

How to optimize Docker Build Context?

Making the Docker build context better is important for faster builds and less time creating Docker images. The build context includes files and folders sent to the Docker daemon to make an image. Here are some tips to improve the Docker build context:

  1. Minimize the Build Context Size:

    • Keep only needed files for making the image. Don't add unneeded files like build leftovers, logs, or big data sets to the build context.
  2. Use .dockerignore:

    • Create a .dockerignore file in the same directory as your Dockerfile to indicate files and directories that should be excluded from the build context. This helps minimize the context size and accelerates the build process.

Example .dockerignore file:

  1. Leverage Docker Layer Caching:

    • Docker utilizes layer caching during builds. If a layer remains unchanged (based on the contents of the build context and Dockerfile), Docker can reuse the cached layer. This significantly accelerates subsequent builds.
  2. Consider Multi-Stage Builds:

    • Use multi-stage builds to split the build environment from the runtime environment. The final image will only have the parts needed for runtime, not the whole build environment. This makes the overall image size smaller.

Example multi-stage Dockerfile:

    # Build stage
    FROM builder AS build
    # ... build steps ...

    # Final stage
    FROM alpine:3.14
    COPY --from=build /app /app
  1. Place Dockerfile in a Shallow Directory:

    • Place your Dockerfile in a shallow directory to minimize the number of files included in the build context. You can accomplish this by organizing your project files into subdirectories.

Example directory structure:

    ├── src/
    ├── Dockerfile
    └── .dockerignore
  1. Build Context Compression:

    • If your Docker daemon supports it, enable build context compression. Docker automatically compresses the build context before sending it to the daemon, which reduces the transfer time.


    DOCKER_BUILDKIT=1 docker build -t <image_name> .
  1. Use Git Sparse Checkouts (Experimental):

    • Docker BuildKit has experimental features, like using Git sparse checkouts to only include certain directories in the build context. This is helpful when building from a Git repository.


    # syntax=docker/dockerfile:experimental
    FROM alpine:3.14 as builder
    WORKDIR /app
    RUN --mount=type=git,target=. git checkout HEAD -- subdirectory
  1. Consider Remote Builds:

    • Instead of using a local Docker daemon for building, you can use remote build services like Docker Buildx or cloud-based build services. This lets you move the build process to a stronger environment.


Don't forget to find the right balance between optimizing and keeping important files and dependencies for your app. This way, the Docker image is built quickly without losing any features.

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