Creating a Custom User Model in Django

This post explains step-by-step how to create a custom User model in Django so that an email address can be used as the primary user identifier instead of a username for authentication.


By the end of this article, you should be able to:

  1. Describe the difference between AbstractUser and AbstractBaseUser
  2. Explain why you should set up a custom User model when starting a new Django project
  3. Start a new Django project with a custom User model
  4. Use an email address as the primary user identifier instead of a username for authentication
  5. Practice test-first development while implementing a custom User model

AbstractUser vs AbstractBaseUser

The default User model in Django uses a username to uniquely identify a user during authentication. If you'd rather use an email address, you'll need to create a custom User model by either subclassing AbstractUser or AbstractBaseUser.


  1. AbstractUser: Use this option if you are happy with the existing fields on the User model and just want to remove the username field.
  2. AbstractBaseUser: Use this option if you want to start from scratch by creating your own, completely new User model.

We'll look at both options, AbstractUser and AbstractBaseUser, in this post.

The steps are the same for each:

  1. Create a custom User model and Manager
  2. Update
  3. Customize the UserCreationForm and UserChangeForm forms
  4. Update the admin

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