Paperclip Validation outside of ActiveRecord

In this post we will try to give an example to perform the active record validation outside the ActiveRecord models. Why would someone even want to do that ? At Freeletics, we have moved past the principle of Fat Model, Thin Controller and follow Thin Model, Thin Controller, supported by Interactors, Services, and Presenters. To give a quick overview, we have different services such as:

These (micro)services communicate with each other and the Clients, using JSON API. Our approach is to make Models and Controllers as thin as possible. Most of the required Business Logic is done by the “Interactors”, along with the support from Service Objects, whenever needed, to perform the tasks. The Controller action will simply call the responsible Interactor and expect true or false in return. Based on the result, the Controller will render appropriate response with the help of Presenter.

This makes our app modular, less coupled and easy to extend/update.

If this simplified overview has intrigued you, we will give a detailed explanation about our architecture in our future posts.

Let’s come back to the main idea of this post. As we mentioned earlier, we make interactors do all the tasks including ActiveRecord validations; the Model class will only have definition of model structure and its associations. In this example, we start with the basic Paperclip procedure to define an attached file in our User model.

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_attached_file :image,
    styles: {
      small:  {geometry: "375x150",  format: :jpg},
      medium: {geometry: "750x300",  format: :jpg},
      large:  {geometry: "1125x450", format: :jpg}
    convert_options: {
      small:   "-strip",
      medium:  "-strip",
      orginal: "-strip"

  do_not_validate_attachment_file_type :image

We tell explicitly that we do not want paperclip to validate the attachment file type - Paperclip throws an error if you don’t validate the attachment - as we do that in the Interactor later.

Now we define an Interactor that is responsible to operate upon the User model.

class SaveUserInteractor
  include ActiveModel::Model

  ATTRIBUTES = %i(first_name last_name image)


  validates :first_name, presence: true
  validates :last_name, presence: true

  # >>> all this is needed for paperclip validation outside of AR
  extend ActiveModel::Callbacks
  include Paperclip::Glue

  define_model_callbacks :save, only: [:after]
  define_model_callbacks :destroy, only: [:before, :after]
  define_model_callbacks :commit, only: [:after]

  has_attached_file :image
  validates_attachment :image, content_type: {content_type: %r{\Aimage/.*\Z}}, size: {in: 0..10.megabytes}
  attr_accessor :image_file_size, :image_file_name, :image_content_type, :id
  # <<< end of paperclip validation

  def initialize(user, attributes = {})

  def call
    valid? && persist


  def persist
    # save/update the model

The ActiveModel::Model module inclusion is self explanatory, for validations and initialization of User attributes. Paperclip validation is done between the comment block section. Paperclip::Glue is included and also Model callbacks are defined to support Paperclip with its internal validation implementation. That’s it, now we are good to create a Controller that uses this Interactor to talk with User model.

The code for Controller could be something like this:

class UserController < Admin::ApplicationController
  def create
    interactor =,
      # return success response;
      # Presenter could be called to modify the response
      # return failure response


  def user_params
    params.require(:user).permit(:first_name, :last_name, :image)

This is all you need to do to make the Paperclip attachment validation outside of ActiveRecord Model.

Things to remember in the Interactor class are:

With this pattern, our Controller should only know which Interactor to call. The interactor call returns either true or false based on the operation being succesfull or not. And the Model class remains as pure Database entity. There is no coupling between Controller and Model, and the Business Logic can be distributed between Interactor and Service classes.

Tested on Paperclip >= 5.0.0 and rails >= 4.2.5.