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How to Add Featured Images or Post Thumbnails in WordPress

Articles promoted with eye-catching images get 94% more views than text-only. Learn how to add featured images, aka post thumbnails to your WordPress posts. Most of the modern WP themes have built-in support for featured images so that users can easily control post thumbnails. Image types can be .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .gif, and .ico.

Since WordPress 2.9, the general term used is ‘featured image,’ so we’ll keep with that. If you read about post thumbnails elsewhere, just know that they mean the same thing.

What Is a Featured Image—Exactly?

A custom featured image represents WordPress posts and pages, which is better than text-only. The images also show up when you share the site’s posts on other online platforms. Below are examples of how featured images complement titles and descriptions in WordPress.

Would you be more inclined to click the Read More link with or without the thumbnail images?

Images may also be stacked vertically, depending on your theme’s layout options.

Here are a few other benefits of enabling featured images in WordPress.

  • More visually attractive and clickable to visitors
  • Helps to set the tone or your blog or website
  • Compliments the written content
  • Enhances the post or page’s SEO potential

Point to note: Where the featured images display on your WordPress website or blog can vary with themes. Typically, it’s the article feed or list page, and sometimes at the top of posts.

Does Your Theme Support Feature Images?

Not all themes support featured images by default, but there’s a quick way to check.

Log in to your WP Admin Dashboard.

Open a Post or Page screen from the side menu.

For this example, we’ll use posts to illustrate.

Create a new post or click the Edit link to open an existing one.

On the Post Edit screen, select the Document tab in the Settings column (right)

Tip: If you don’t see the Settings column, click the settings gear icon.

Scroll down the Document column. You will see a tab for Featured image if your theme supports it. If not, consider another theme or add this feature manually using code (see end section).

The featured image function lets you add single image files to represent posts and pages.

  1. Click the Featured image dropdown arrow (right)
  2. Click the Set featured image

Clicking ‘Set featured image’ takes you to the Media Library Uploader. You can select existing images or upload them from your computer. We’ll choose an existing photo for this example.

  1. Click on the photo or illustration you want to set as the post’s featured image
  2. Enter additional attachment details in the right-side column as appropriate
  3. Click the ‘Set featured image’ button

Tip: if you don’t enter attachment meta details in step 2, you can easily add them later.

The new image replaces the blank Set featured image box. From here, you can decide to keep the new image, replace or remove it. Here’s how it looks like under the Document column.

Point to note: Featured thumbnail displays and image sizes may vary between themes.

Adding Featured Image Manually

Modern themes support featured images, so most users don’t need to worry about the manual approach. If you do have a regular or custom theme that doesn’t support it, then you can add it manually using code. See Featured Images & Post Thumbnails for guidance.

This approach requires you to edit your functions.php file. Read How to Open and Edit Your Functions PHP File if you’re unsure. Better still, get an expert to do this small job for you.


Want to Learn WordPress?

WordPress is an amazing platform for building any type of website.   It’s used by large corporations and small mom & pop sites.

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