Selectable avatars

Avatars are a big part of anyone’s online identity. Discourse already supports 3 options when it comes to avatars: based on the first letter of your username, your Gravatar or any images you want to upload.


But what if you want to provide your users with a limited set of avatars to choose from? It’s now possible thanks to the “selectable avatars” feature!

As an admin, if you click Edit next to the selectable avatars site setting, a modal will pop up and ask you to start uploading avatars.


You can either drag & drop up to 10 images at a time or click Upload Picture to browse your computer to select the images you want to upload.

If you want to remove some of the uploaded images, you just need to click on it.

Note: Make sure you click :white_check_mark: after closing the modal to actually save the list.

After enabling the selectable avatars enabled site setting, two things will happen

  • Newly created user will automatically be affected a random avatar from the list.
  • Users will be presented with the same list to choose from whenever they want to change their avatar.

Note: existing users will keep their current avatar until they change it.

Enjoy :heart_eyes_cat:

No cats were armed in the making of this topic.


Since it’s called “selectable avatars”, my expectation would be that they’re selectable but not enforced… Would it be a big change to make these avatars selectable without changing anything else?

Oh, and the logical next step would obviously be to make it possible to include avatar-sets in themes… Or is this already possible?


I know that my home site would really get some usage out of this provided it isn’t enforced that you must have one of these avatars, and that it was just another option alongside the letter/gravatar/custom image. Is that how this works, and if not, could it be an option?


I think the point of the feature is to tightly control the available avatars for branding / theming / safety purposes.


We’re getting reports from users that they are able to use this tool to select avatars for other members, including site administrators…

I haven’t confirmed whether they are able to actually do it (none have been game enough to click the save changes button yet), but they can definitely see the “Change your profile picture” popup if they click on another user’s profile image.


That bug was fixed and will be deployed tomorrow to all our customers.


I would love to use this feature too, but can’t delete profile pics for those who have already uploaded one.

Tight control is not the only valid use case. My site encourages photos but in the absence of photos, we would at least like to be able to visually differentiate users at a glance. The colored letters don’t do that very well; avatars from a list would do it much better.


Agreed with @markschmucker, such tight control of avatars is not the value I was looking for when I went searching for this feature.

Really, I want all of my users just to start out with one of the set avatars I have made instead of off-brand letters, but of course after that I want them to have the freedom to customize their profiles as they see fit.


I hear you :wink: It’s still on my list.


Hello @zogstrip, et al! Today, this feature is good, but with one tweak, it would be perfect!

tl;dr - There seems to be a theme in this thread:

Admins want to be able to fill a pool or list of branded avatars. ( ✓possible ) Admins also want to automatically, and randomly assign a “selectable avatar” to each new user. ( ✓possible ) In conjunction with the last two points, Admins want to allow users to upload their own custom profile picture or avatar if users do not want to use one of the default avatars from the “selectable avatars” pool/list. ( :disappointed: not possible, am I right? ) - basically allowing the “selectable avatars” to act the same way the “default avatars” setting currently works.


Currently, there are some settings that seem to semantically conflict with one another:

  • allow uploaded avatars ❑ Allow users to upload custom profile pictures.
  • selectable avatars enabled ❑ Force users to choose an avatar from the list.

I want to be able to enable “selectable avatars” without forcing users to only use pics from this library. This is why I have the other option selected to “Allow users to upload custom profile pictures.” But that option doesn’t work when the “Force users to choose an avatar from the list.” option selected.

Practical Use Case

When new users join a community, they often do not customize their profile picture or avatar. I’ve developed several communities and evaluated hundreds of sample online communities and have found this to generally be consistent across communities. Getting someone to add a profile pic or avatar is a pretty significant step on the commitment curve. They usually do this after they’ve established their identity and trust with a new community, and plan on sticking around and participating more than just a user who creates an account so they can ask one question, and will probably never return.

So when new members participate in forums, and they all have the same generic profile images, it looks like the same person is responding. Or perhaps it feels like the members are not too engaged. Discourse addresses this on a small level, by changing the background color and the users first initial. But if each new person is auto (randomly) assigned a profile image from a preset pool of images, then when those folks post, the community looks much more friendly and welcoming, and filled with more engaged users.

Here's an example of a good community thread. Some registered members plus some members that never took the time to upload an avatar (illustrated by red arrow)

Here's an example of what we don't want... Everyone has the same avatar.


I’m not sure about the best way to fix this in the admin settings ¯\ _ (ツ)_/¯

Suggested feature update

One suggestion would be to add another option beneath the “default avatars” option and call it “selectable avatars as default” (or something similar). Then have a description like:
❑ Assign a random avatar from the “selectable avatars” list as a default for new users, until user manually changes avatar."

Based on the logic of the current “default avatars” setting, if you added a setting like that suggestion :arrow_up:︎ You could then change the frontend UI to be something like this…

Note: I added the section beneath the “Custom Picture” as if that were the list of “selectable avatars” uploaded by the admin. The avatar highlighted in grey would be the avatar the system selected. (if the “custom picture” option was toggled then the highlight would probably go away. Then when the “system assigned profile pic” is toggled, the associated avatar from the “selectable avatars library” would be highlighted.

By default, the top option (of the three) would be selected… but the user would still have the other options to use a gravatar or upload a custom picture. If they like the list of “selectable avatars” they could choose a different one that they prefer.

I’m sure there’s a better way to accomplish this than what I’m suggesting but hopefully, this illustrates what I with Discourse would allow with the “selectable avatars” and I think others are asking for this same type of functionality.


One thing I just discovered is that there is a workaround that will allow you to upload a predefined list of “selectable avatars” and set these as the “default avatars,” while also allowing users to change their avatar to a custom profile picture. It appears the following folks were asking for this: @Elliott_Mozley, @D_Friday, @markschmucker, and @orangeandblack5

Set default avatars for new users, and allow custom avatar/profile pictures:

  1. Visit admin settings and search for “avatar
  2. Find the selectable avatars option and click Edit list
  3. Click the Upload button and select all the files to be used as “default avatars” for new users
  4. Right-click on each of the newly uploaded avatars and select “Copy Image Address
  5. Paste the “image address” for each of the avatars you just uploaded. (be sure to hit ✓ when finished)

Voila! Your list of “selectable avatars” will now be automagically assigned, at random, to new users. They will then be able to go into their account to upload their own, custom profile picture!

Thanks, Discourse team, for making this possible!


Is there ANY way to configure so that users have the OPTION to select from the list of “selectable avatars” without removing their ability to upload custom avatars?

The solution / UI that @jord8on suggested would be perfect, but… has anyone determined if there’s a reason that Discourse requires “selectable avatars” OR user-uploaded avatars, and can’t support both?

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I would say by simply not checking the box to force users to use avatars from the list.
That should leave the other two options open to the users (letters or upload their own photos).


You would think that, yes – but when you uncheck “force users to use avatars from the list”, there’s no longer any way for them to ACCESS the list of avatars. I’m trying to figure out how to make the avatars AVAILABLE, but not REQUIRED.

Any thoughts? :slight_smile:


The whole point of selectable avatars, as I understood it, is to limit avatar selection to a safe, pre-determined list. Allowing user uploads works against that goal.


That’s one use case. Another is that you want to support your community in having a lot of choice, without limiting their options or requiring them to be comfortable uploading.

I get the use case you’re describing and am glad Discourse supports it.

That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be even more useful if it didn’t require all or nothing implementation, and left the choice up to the community managers.


I would like it to use a system photo but if no system photo is available choose one from the list.

Why? sometimes are users are blocked from uploading system photo’s and some of the users are allowed them.

Assign one at random is kind of good but then you would need to use non-gender or non-ethnicity avatars, so I would prefer they choose one and we celebrate diversity.


Would a theme component be able to provide such pictures?


Limited avatar sets sometimes don’t pair well with the reply-to feature in the post list in mobile view. Example here on the New World forum:

These two messages aren’t replying to the same person, but the New World forum has a fairly limited avatar set (as often with forums that only allow a set of useable avatars, from what I experienced). The issue is absent from the desktop view since the usernames are written next to the avatars:

When browsing and reading this kind of topic from a mobile, it’s quickly confusing.

Are there plans from Discourse to circumvent this slight issue? Currently, I don’t see another way than being the admin and adding the username on the mobile view as well.


@here some good news for you :wink: