Pet Art Dreambooth with Hugging Face and Gradio

This example finetunes the Stable Diffusion XL model on images of a pet (by default, a puppy named Qwerty) using a technique called textual inversion from the “Dreambooth” paper. Effectively, it teaches a general image generation model a new “proper noun”, allowing for the personalized generation of art and photos.

It then makes the model shareable with others — without costing $25/day for a GPU server— by hosting a Gradio app on Modal.

It demonstrates a simple, productive, and cost-effective pathway to building on large pretrained models using Modal’s building blocks, like GPU-accelerated Modal functions and classes for compute-intensive work, volumes for storage, and web endpoints for serving.

And with some light customization, you can use it to generate images of your pet! image generation interface

Imports and setup

We start by importing the necessary libraries and setting up the environment. By installing Modal, we already brought in the FastAPI library we’ll use to serve our app, so we import it here.

from dataclasses import dataclass
from pathlib import Path

from fastapi import FastAPI
from fastapi.responses import FileResponse
from modal import (

Building up the environment

Machine learning environments are complex, and the dependencies can be hard to manage. Modal makes creating and working with environments easy via containers and container images.

We start from a base image and specify all of our dependencies. We’ll call out the interesting ones as they come up below. Note that these dependencies are not installed locally — they are only installed in the remote environment where our app runs.

app = App(name="example-dreambooth-app")

image = Image.debian_slim(python_version="3.10").pip_install(

Downloading scripts and installing a git repo with run_commands

We’ll use an example script from the diffusers library to train the model. We acquire it from GitHub and install it in our environment with a series of commands. The container environments Modal functions run in are highly flexible — see the docs for more details.

    "abd922bd0c43a504e47eca2ed354c3634bd00834"  # specify the commit to fetch

image = (
    # Perform a shallow fetch of just the target `diffusers` commit, checking out
    # the commit in the container's home directory, /root. Then install `diffusers`
        "cd /root && git init .",
        "cd /root && git remote add origin",
        f"cd /root && git fetch --depth=1 origin {GIT_SHA} && git checkout {GIT_SHA}",
        "cd /root && pip install -e .",

Configuration with dataclasses

Machine learning apps often have a lot of configuration information. We collect up all of our configuration into dataclasses to avoid scattering special/magic values throughout code.

class SharedConfig:
    """Configuration information shared across project components."""

    # The instance name is the "proper noun" we're teaching the model
    instance_name: str = "Qwerty"
    # That proper noun is usually a member of some class (person, bird),
    # and sharing that information with the model helps it generalize better.
    class_name: str = "Golden Retriever"
    # identifier for pretrained models on Hugging Face
    model_name: str = "stabilityai/stable-diffusion-xl-base-1.0"
    vae_name: str = "madebyollin/sdxl-vae-fp16-fix"  # required for numerical stability in fp16

Downloading weights with run_function

Not everything we need for an ML app like Pet Dreambooth is available as a Python package or even on GitHub. Sometimes, there is nothing to be done but to execute some code inside the environment. We can do this on Modal with run_function.

In our case, we use it to download the pretrained model weights for the Stable Diffusion XL model that we’ll be finetuning.

def download_models():
    import torch
    from diffusers import AutoencoderKL, DiffusionPipeline
    from transformers.utils import move_cache

    config = SharedConfig()

            config.vae_name, torch_dtype=torch.float16

image = image.run_function(download_models)

Storing data generated by our app with modal.Volume

The tools we’ve used so far work well for fetching external information, which defines the environment our app runs in, but what about data that we create or modify during the app’s execution? A persisted modal.Volume can store and share data across Modal apps or runs of the same app.

We’ll use one to store the fine-tuned weights we create during training and then load them back in for inference.

volume = Volume.from_name(
    "dreambooth-finetuning-volume", create_if_missing=True
MODEL_DIR = "/model"

Load finetuning dataset

Part of the magic of the Dreambooth approach is that we only need 3-10 images for finetuning. So we can fetch just a few images, stored on consumer platforms like Imgur or Google Drive, whenever we need them — no need for expensive, hard-to-maintain data pipelines.

def load_images(image_urls: list[str]) -> Path:
    import PIL.Image
    from smart_open import open

    img_path = Path("/img")

    img_path.mkdir(parents=True, exist_ok=True)
    for ii, url in enumerate(image_urls):
        with open(url, "rb") as f:
            image =
   / f"{ii}.png")
    print(f"{ii + 1} images loaded")

    return img_path

Finetuning a text-to-image model

The base model we start from is trained to do a sort of “reverse ekphrasis”: it attempts to recreate a visual work of art or image from only its description.

We can use the model to synthesize wholly new images by combining the concepts it has learned from the training data.

We use a pretrained model, the XL version of Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion. In this example, we “finetune” SDXL, making only small adjustments to the weights. Furthermore, we don’t change all the weights in the model. Instead, using a technique called low-rank adaptation, we change a much smaller matrix that works “alongside” the existing weights, nudging the model in the direction we want.

We can get away with such a small and simple training process because we’re just teach the model the meaning of a single new word: the name of our pet.

The result is a model that can generate novel images of our pet: as an astronaut in space, as painted by Van Gogh or Bastiat, etc.

Finetuning with Hugging Face 🧨 Diffusers and Accelerate

The model weights, training libraries, and training script are all provided by 🤗 Hugging Face.

You can kick off a training job with the command modal run It should take under five minutes.

Training machine learning models takes time and produces a lot of metadata — metrics for performance and resource utilization, metrics for model quality and training stability, and model inputs and outputs like images and text. This is especially important if you’re fiddling around with the configuration parameters.

This example can optionally use Weights & Biases to track all of this training information. Just sign up for an account, switch the flag below, and add your API key as a Modal secret.


You can see an example W&B dashboard here. Check out this run, which despite having high GPU utilization suffered from numerical instability during training and produced only black images — hard to debug without experiment management logs!

You can read more about how the values in TrainConfig are chosen and adjusted in this blog post on Hugging Face. To run training on images of your own pet, upload the images to separate URLs and edit the contents of the file at TrainConfig.instance_example_urls_file to point to them.

Tip: if the results you’re seeing don’t match the prompt too well, and instead produce an image of your subject without taking the prompt into account, the model has likely overfit. In this case, repeat training with a lower value of max_train_steps. If you used W&B, look back at results earlier in training to determine where to stop. On the other hand, if the results don’t look like your subject, you might need to increase max_train_steps.

class TrainConfig(SharedConfig):
    """Configuration for the finetuning step."""

    # training prompt looks like `{PREFIX} {INSTANCE_NAME} the {CLASS_NAME} {POSTFIX}`
    prefix: str = "a photo of"
    postfix: str = ""

    # locator for plaintext file with urls for images of target instance
    instance_example_urls_file: str = str(
        Path(__file__).parent / "instance_example_urls.txt"

    # Hyperparameters/constants from the huggingface training example
    resolution: int = 1024
    train_batch_size: int = 4
    gradient_accumulation_steps: int = 1
    learning_rate: float = 1e-4
    lr_scheduler: str = "constant"
    lr_warmup_steps: int = 0
    max_train_steps: int = 80
    checkpointing_steps: int = 1000
    seed: int = 117

    gpu="A100",  # fine-tuning is VRAM-heavy and requires an A100 GPU
    volumes={MODEL_DIR: volume},  # stores fine-tuned model
    timeout=1800,  # 30 minutes
    secrets=[Secret.from_name("my-wandb-secret")] if USE_WANDB else [],
def train(instance_example_urls):
    import subprocess

    from accelerate.utils import write_basic_config

    config = TrainConfig()

    # load data locally
    img_path = load_images(instance_example_urls)

    # set up hugging face accelerate library for fast training

    # define the training prompt
    instance_phrase = f"{config.instance_name} the {config.class_name}"
    prompt = f"{config.prefix} {instance_phrase} {config.postfix}".strip()

    # the model training is packaged as a script, so we have to execute it as a subprocess, which adds some boilerplate
    def _exec_subprocess(cmd: list[str]):
        """Executes subprocess and prints log to terminal while subprocess is running."""
        process = subprocess.Popen(
        with process.stdout as pipe:
            for line in iter(pipe.readline, b""):
                line_str = line.decode()
                print(f"{line_str}", end="")

        if exitcode := process.wait() != 0:
            raise subprocess.CalledProcessError(exitcode, "\n".join(cmd))

    # run training -- see huggingface accelerate docs for details
    print("launching dreambooth training script")
            "--mixed_precision=fp16",  # half-precision floats most of the time for faster training
            f"--pretrained_vae_model_name_or_path={config.vae_name}",  # required for numerical stability in fp16
            f"--seed={config.seed}",  # increased reproducibility by seeding the RNG
        + (
                f"--validation_prompt={prompt} in space",  # simple test prompt
                f"--validation_epochs={config.max_train_steps // 5}",
            if USE_WANDB
            else []
    # The trained model information has been output to the volume mounted at `MODEL_DIR`.
    # To persist this data for use in our web app, we 'commit' the changes
    # to the volume.

Running our model

To generate images from prompts using our fine-tuned model, we define a Modal function called inference.

Naively, this would seem to be a bad fit for the flexible, serverless infrastructure of Modal: wouldn’t you need to include the steps to load the model and spin it up in every function call?

In order to initialize the model just once on container startup, we use Modal’s container lifecycle features, which require the function to be part of a class. Note that the modal.Volume we saved the model to is mounted here as well, so that the fine-tuned model created by train is available to us.

@app.cls(image=image, gpu="A10G", volumes={MODEL_DIR: volume})
class Model:
    def load_model(self):
        import torch
        from diffusers import AutoencoderKL, DiffusionPipeline

        config = TrainConfig()

        # Reload the modal.Volume to ensure the latest state is accessible.

        # set up a hugging face inference pipeline using our model
        pipe = DiffusionPipeline.from_pretrained(
                config.vae_name, torch_dtype=torch.float16
        self.pipe = pipe

    def inference(self, text, config):
        image = self.pipe(

        return image

Wrap the trained model in a Gradio web UI

Gradio makes it super easy to expose a model’s functionality in an easy-to-use, responsive web interface.

This model is a text-to-image generator, so we set up an interface that includes a user-entry text box and a frame for displaying images.

We also provide some example text inputs to help guide users and to kick-start their creative juices.

And we couldn’t resist adding some Modal style to it as well!

You can deploy the app on Modal with the command modal deploy You’ll be able to come back days, weeks, or months later and find it still ready to do, even though you don’t have to pay for a server to run while you’re not using it.

web_app = FastAPI()
assets_path = Path(__file__).parent / "assets"

class AppConfig(SharedConfig):
    """Configuration information for inference."""

    num_inference_steps: int = 25
    guidance_scale: float = 7.5

    mounts=[Mount.from_local_dir(assets_path, remote_path="/assets")],
def fastapi_app():
    import gradio as gr
    from gradio.routes import mount_gradio_app

    # Call out to the inference in a separate Modal environment with a GPU
    def go(text=""):
        if not text:
            text = example_prompts[0]
        return Model().inference.remote(text, config)

    # set up AppConfig
    config = AppConfig()

    instance_phrase = f"{config.instance_name} the {config.class_name}"

    example_prompts = [
        f"a painting of {instance_phrase.title()} With A Pearl Earring, by Vermeer",
        f"oil painting of {instance_phrase} flying through space as an astronaut",
        f"a painting of {instance_phrase} in cyberpunk city. character design by cory loftis. volumetric light, detailed, rendered in octane",
        f"drawing of {instance_phrase} high quality, cartoon, path traced, by studio ghibli and don bluth",

    modal_docs_url = ""
    modal_example_url = f"{modal_docs_url}/examples/dreambooth_app"

    description = f"""Describe what they are doing or how a particular artist or style would depict them. Be fantastical! Try the examples below for inspiration.

### Learn how to make a "Dreambooth" for your own pet [here]({modal_example_url}).

    # custom styles: an icon, a background, and a theme
    @web_app.get("/favicon.ico", include_in_schema=False)
    async def favicon():
        return FileResponse("/assets/favicon.svg")

    @web_app.get("/assets/background.svg", include_in_schema=False)
    async def background():
        return FileResponse("/assets/background.svg")

    with open("/assets/index.css") as f:
        css =

    theme = gr.themes.Default(
        primary_hue="green", secondary_hue="emerald", neutral_hue="neutral"

    # add a gradio UI around inference
    with gr.Blocks(
        theme=theme, css=css, title="Pet Dreambooth on Modal"
    ) as interface:
            f"# Dream up images of {instance_phrase}.\n\n{description}",
        with gr.Row():
            inp = gr.Textbox(  # input text component
                placeholder=f"Describe the version of {instance_phrase} you'd like to see",
            out = gr.Image(  # output image component
                height=512, width=512, label="", min_width=512, elem_id="output"
        with gr.Row():
            btn = gr.Button("Dream", variant="primary", scale=2)
                fn=go, inputs=inp, outputs=out
            )  # connect inputs and outputs with inference function

            gr.Button(  # shameless plug
                "⚡️ Powered by Modal",

        with gr.Column(variant="compact"):
            # add in a few examples to inspire users
            for ii, prompt in enumerate(example_prompts):
                btn = gr.Button(prompt, variant="secondary")
       idx=ii: example_prompts[idx], outputs=inp)

    # mount for execution on Modal
    return mount_gradio_app(

Running your own Dreambooth from the command line

You can use the modal command-line interface to set up, customize, and deploy this app:

  • modal run will train the model. Change the instance_example_urls_file to point to your own pet’s images.
  • modal serve will serve the Gradio interface at a temporary location. Great for iterating on code!
  • modal shell is a convenient helper to open a bash shell in our image. Great for debugging environment issues.

Remember, once you’ve trained your own fine-tuned model, you can deploy it using modal deploy

If you just want to try the app out, you can find it at

def run():
    with open(TrainConfig().instance_example_urls_file) as f:
        instance_example_urls = [line.strip() for line in f.readlines()]