January 19, 2020

1606 words 8 mins read

Workshop: Prisma and Graphql

Workshop: Prisma and Graphql


This Workshop aims to introduce you to Prisma 2 aka the Prisma Framework.

Prisma is divided in 3 components:

  1. Client: a type-safe and auto-generated database client.
  2. Migrate: a declarative data modeling language and a migration system.
  3. Studio: an admin UI to support various database workflows.

If you don’t understand everything don’t worry: you will by the end of this workshop!

Just in case, open the Prisma2 doc, it may help!

Getting started

Prisma is a nice tool to communicate with your database so you will obviously need… a database! install docker if you haven’t already and run the following command:

$ docker run --name db -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=postgres -e POSTGRES_USER=postgres -p 5432:5432 -d postgres

Next, make sure you have Node.js installed.

$ node -v

Nice! We’re ready to start! We can now create our project with the Prisma CLI.

$ npx prisma2 init prisma-workshop
$ cd prisma-workshop

Delete the content of prisma/schema.prisma and replace it with

datasource db {
  provider = "postgresql"
  url      = "postgresql://postgres:postgres@localhost:5432/postgres?schema=public"

generator client {
  provider = "prisma-client-js"

model User {
  id String @id @default(cuid())

It tells prisma that we are using a PostgreSQL database, on which URL it is located and that we use the JavaScript client.

We also added an example model called User which have an id field.

Now we will have to setup a Node.js project and to install some dependencies.

$ npm init -y
$ npm install --save-dev prisma2 typescript ts-node
$ npx tsc --init --target es2018
$ npm install --save @prisma/client

Open a new terminal in the same directory and run the prisma watcher:

$ npx prisma2 generate --watch

This will watch our schema.prisma. When it changes, prisma regenerates the Client.

Add a start script to the package.json:

  "scripts": {
    "start": "ts-node src/index.ts"

Create our source file:

// src/index.ts
import { PrismaClient } from '@prisma/client';

const prisma = new PrismaClient();

async function main() {
  await prisma.connect();

  await prisma.disconnect();


You can type npm start. If nothing happens, it works! If something does happen, you probably missed something and should step back to see what.

Introducing the Prisma Client

Time to put you at work! I want you to familiarize yourself with the Prisma Client and the Prisma Language.

Go through the docs and find out how to add models to your schema.prisma. We need to update the User model which have an id (cuid string), a unique email and a password.

Once you wrote your model, you have to apply the changes to the database. To do so run the following commands:

$ npx prisma2 migrate save --name add_user_model --experimental
$ npx prisma2 migrate up --experimental

We just created a migration an applied it to our database.

Your script (src/index.ts) must create 3 users, update the email of one, delete another, fetch them all and display them.

⚠️: if you need to clear your database, run npx prisma2 studio --experimental, go to the Prisma Studio and delete the users.

Introducing GraphQL

Now that you played a bit with the Client, we can create our first GraphQL server. Before we proceed, I invite you to read what is GraphQL.

Theory is cool, but practice is cooler! Go to the Apollo Server docs and read the getting started page.

Once you’re done, install apollo-server and graphql, remove the main function from index.ts and create a new ApolloServer.


Now that you have read ApolloServer getting started you have to setup a schema, create the User type and add a users query. We need to be able to fetch the users like this:

query {
    users {

Make the resolver return this global array, we will link it to the database later:

const users = [
  { email: 'toto@demo.com', password: 'toto' },
  { email: 'tata@demo.com', password: 'tata' },

You should now have your first GraphQL API up and running!

Mutations and parameters

We can read some data from our API but we still can’t write anything to it. Let’s fix that!

Read the next page of the ApolloServer’s docs.

Add a Mutation type and a mutation called createUser which takes an email and a password as arguments. It must return the newly created user after it pushed it in our users array.

mutation {
    createUser(email: "tutu@demo.com", password: "tutu") {

Make your life easier…

You may have noticed that you have to reload your server each time you were making any changes. We can use ts-node-dev to avoid this and make our life easier! Just add this script to your package.json and use this from now on to start your server during development.

    "dev": "ts-node-dev --no-notify --respawn src/index.ts"
$ npm install --save-dev ts-node-dev
$ npm run dev

Linking Prisma and GraphQL

To access Prisma in our GraphQL API we need to pass down the prisma instance to our resolvers. Apollo have a great way to do so through the Context object.

As you saw earlier, a resolver can take at least 2 arguments:

  1. parent: The result of the previous resolver in the middleware pipeline.
  2. args: the arguments of your resolver.

But there is a third which is context (that I like to call ctx).

As you can see here, the context object is where we can store various information about the current query and our global connection to other services, like a database. To use our prisma instance in our resolvers we just have to tell ApolloServer to add it to the context:

// src/index.ts
import { PrismaClient } from '@prisma/client';

const prisma = new PrismaClient();

interface Context {
  prisma: PrismaClient;

function createContext(): Context {
  return {

// ...

const server = new ApolloServer({
  context: createContext,

// ...

Great! Now our resolvers should look like this:

function(parent, args, ctx)

Or, if you just want your prisma instance, like this:

function(parent, args, { prisma })

Now you can use your previously acquired prisma knowledge to read and write from the database in the users and createUser resolvers.

To see if it works, try to create a user from your GraphQL API and see if it appeared in Prisma Studio.


Even if writing a GraphQL schema looks simple for now, I can tell you it doesn’t scale well for several reasons:

  1. Having the whole schema in a string is hard to maintain.
  2. No type safety in the resolvers.
  3. No auto-completion for the schema and the resolvers.

The Prisma team saw that and created a tool called GraphQL Nexus. This library allows you to define your GraphQL schema in TypeScript and generate the correct types for your resolvers.

Go through the Nexus Getting Started and install it with npm install nexus. We will now rewrite our schema with the Nexus types.

Generate the GraphQL schema with Nexus

First, define a User type with the objectType function. Give it an email and password field. Then, recreate the Query and Mutation types with the queryType and mutationType functions.

Move the resolvers to their respective Nexus type on the resolve attribute. Here is how I did it with the Query type.

// src/index.ts

// ...

const User = objectType({
  // ...

const Query = queryType({
  definition(t) {
    t.list.field('users', {
      type: User,
      resolve: (parent, args, ctx) => ctx.prisma.user.findMany(),

const Mutation = mutationType({
  // ...

const schema = makeSchema({
  types: [User, Query, Mutation],

const server = new ApolloServer({
  context: createContext,

// ...

If you go to the GraphQL Playground (ensure first your server is running), in the schema tab, you should see the exact same schema we have defined without Nexus:

type Mutation {
  createUser(email: String!, password: String!): User!
type Query {
  users: [User!]!
type User {
  email: String!
  password: String!

Nexus output

If you look at the logs of your server, you might see this warning:

You should specify a configuration value for outputs in Nexus' makeSchema.
Provide one to remove this warning.

Having Nexus generate files for the GraphQL schema and the generated types can be very useful when developing. Let’s setup this:

const schema = makeSchema({
  types: [User, Query, Mutation],
  outputs: {
    schema: `${__dirname}/../schema.graphql`,
    typegen: `${__dirname}/generated/nexus.ts`

Nexus author advise that we commit the schema.graphql file even if it is generated because it could be useful to see how the resulting API is evolving through the versions of our application.

The nexus.ts file containing the TypeScript typegen can however be added to the .gitignore.


As you see, there is a bit of redundancy between our model definition and the GraphQL API. The Prisma team developed a plugin to bring high level synergy between Nexus and Prisma: Nexus-Prisma.

$ npm install nexus-prisma

Add the plugin to Nexus:

import { nexusPrismaPlugin } from 'nexus-prisma';

const schema = makeSchema({
  types: [...],
  outputs: { ... },
  plugins: [nexusPrismaPlugin()],

Now, go through the docs and see how you can improve the User Nexus type implementation with the t.model feature.

Next, find a way to remove our resolvers implementation by only using t.crud. We should be able to search a user with the users query but only by email.

The end.

We are now arriving at the end of this workshop. You should now know how to build great GraphQL API with TypeScript, Prisma, Apollo and Nexus. I strongly encourage you to read about the best practices (that I did not cover in this workshop) in the docs of the different tools we used.

If you have some time left, a great exercise could be to deploy your API on Heroku.

Thank you for following this workshop,

Gabriel Colson.