»Template Builders

Within the template, the builders section contains an array of all the builders that Packer should use to generate machine images for the template.

Builders are responsible for creating machines and generating images from them for various platforms. For example, there are separate builders for EC2, VMware, VirtualBox, etc. Packer comes with many builders by default, and can also be extended to add new builders.

This documentation page will cover how to configure a builder in a template. The specific configuration options available for each builder, however, must be referenced from the documentation for that specific builder.

Within a template, a section of builder definitions looks like this:

  "builders": [
    // ... one or more builder definitions here
{  "builders": [    // ... one or more builder definitions here  ]}

»Builder Definition

A single builder definition maps to exactly one build. A builder definition is a JSON object that requires at least a type key. The type is the name of the builder that will be used to create a machine image for the build.

In addition to the type, other keys configure the builder itself. For example, the AWS builder requires an access_key, secret_key, and some other settings. These are placed directly within the builder definition.

An example builder definition is shown below, in this case configuring the AWS builder:

  "type": "amazon-ebs",
  "access_key": "...",
  "secret_key": "..."
{  "type": "amazon-ebs",  "access_key": "...",  "secret_key": "..."}

»Named Builds

Each build in Packer has a name. By default, the name is just the name of the builder being used. In general, this is good enough. Names only serve as an indicator in the output of what is happening. If you want, however, you can specify a custom name using the name key within the builder definition.

This is particularly useful if you have multiple builds defined that use the same underlying builder. In this case, you must specify a name for at least one of them since the names must be unique.


Every build is associated with a single communicator. Communicators are used to establish a connection for provisioning a remote machine (such as an AWS instance or local virtual machine).

All the examples for the various builders show some communicator (usually SSH), but the communicators are highly customizable so we recommend reading the communicator documentation.