Create thumbnails on the fly with CodeIgniter

Posted by Danny Herran on Aug 9, 2010 in Backend | 9 comments

Before explaining the solution, you should know creating thumbnails on the fly is server inefficient, eats a lot of resources and they should be generated as soon as the images are uploaded. However, there are some occasions when we absolutely need to generate thumbs on the fly. In this article we will learn how to do this in CodeIgniter.

Update 08/11/2012: in order to prevent the PHP engine from generating the same thumbnail over and over again on each page load, this new snippet of code will actually try to read the thumbnail before creating it. For it to work, you need a “thumbs” folder where all the generated thumbs will be saved.

To start, create a new Controller class and name it something like “Thumbs”. You can have many methods inside your controller to handle additional paths or different settings. In this case only have a products() method, but you can have as many as you like.

class Thumbs extends Controller {

	public function __construct()

	public function products($width, $height, $img)
		// Checking if the file exists, otherwise we use a default image
		$img = is_file('assets/main/images/products/'.$img) ? $img : 'default.jpg';

		// If the thumbnail already exists, we just read it
		// No need to use the GD library again
		if( !is_file('assets/main/images/products/thumbs/'.$width.'x'.$height.'_'.$img) )
			$config['source_image']	= 'assets/main/images/products/'.$img;
			$config['new_image'] = 'assets/main/images/products/thumbs/'.$width.'x'.$height.'_'.$img;
			$config['width'] = $width;
			$config['height'] = $height;
		header('Content-Type: image/jpg');

Then, whenever you need an image with a thumbnail on the fly, call the controller directly in your path, like this:

<img src="thumbs/products/158/158/myimage.jpg" alt="" />

The method will look for myimage.jpg in assets/main/images/products/ (you can edit this path of course) and will output the resized image according to the dimensions we passed to the function.

  • Fernando

    Hi, I’m from Brazil.

    I need thumbs of many diffrent sizes and I think that this is the better solution/option for me.

    Thank you for the post. It was helpful to me.

  • Mikhail


    I’m from Russia.

    I checked tons of posts about image resize on the fly with CI.
    And found only one real solution. It’s yours!

    This thing works!

    Thanks, man!

  • Peter Mitchell

    This process is not server inefficient if you cache the images generated rather than outputting them dynamically.

    Furthermore passing the image dimensions to the controller directly leaves the system open to malicious attack.

    It would be prudent to specify some presets in an array then call them

    I.e. array( 'sml' => '100x100', 'med' => '400x400' ); 


  • Yes , i agree with peter. Don’t use the width and height on the url.

    Because anyone can call the same with different width and height values , it will fill your server space…

    So store the dimensions in an array , and cross check with the calling url’s width and height.

  • gabriel


    Is there any special configuration to work? In my script is not working.


  • Anantha Reddy

    Hello !

    This is Anantha Reddy from Inida.

    Very thankful for this post. It was very useful for me.

    Thank you

  • shaon

    Great!!!!!!!!!! Thanks a lot

  • prakash

    Nice one!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Matthew


    I have copied and pasted this code as above but it does not work, I get a broken image on the page and I do not not a created thumb. Can you please help? I am using Codeigniter >2