Trusted WordPress tutorials, when you need them most.
Beginner’s Guide to WordPress
25 Million+
Websites using our plugins
Years of WordPress experience
WordPress tutorials
by experts

What is: Featured Image

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on WPBeginner. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations. Learn more about Editorial Process.

In WordPress, a featured image is the primary image for a blog post. It often appears next to each post’s heading on your home page and social media.

Featured images help you build user engagement and increase pageviews. Search engines and social media websites may also use these images and display them in search results and social media news feeds.

WordPress featured images are often used for blog posts, but you can also set them for pages and custom post types.

What Is a Featured Image in WordPress?

Featured Images Are a WordPress Theme Feature

Almost all WordPress themes come with built-in support for featured images and display them beautifully across different areas of your WordPress website.

Theme authors add featured image support to their themes by adding a simple code snippet to their theme’s functions.php file. They also decide the size and style of the images and how they will be displayed on the blog page.

Featured Images Preview on a Typical WordPress Blog

You often see a creative use of featured images in many WordPress photography themes.

WordPress-powered news and entertainment websites also display these images for each article on the front page.

Adding a Featured Image to a Post

Featured images are added by clicking on the ‘Set featured image’ link in the content editor.

For more details, see our guide on how to add featured images or post thumbnails in WordPress.

Featured Image Section on Post Edit Screen

Theme authors can also set a default featured image to be displayed when no image is found. If that feature is missing from your website’s theme, then you can set a default fallback image yourself.

If you have a multi-author WordPress blog, then you can also require that a featured image be added to each post.

Require Featured Image

And if you like, then you can hide the featured image on certain WordPress posts. For details, you can see our step-by-step tutorial on how to hide the featured image on individual posts in WordPress.

Where to Find Suitable Images for Featured Images

Take care when selecting images to use on your website. You can’t just take images from anywhere on the internet by using a Google image search.

Those images are protected by copyright laws and using them without proper permission can cause legal trouble.

Luckily, there are several resources available that you can use to find free images for your blog posts.

Unsplash Is a Popular Free Image Resource for Bloggers

Our top favorites are:

  • Shutterstock: It offers a few free images, but you’ll get the best value from their paid plans.
  • Unsplash: A popular online resource publishing high-resolution images that you can use on your website and other projects.
  • Negative Space: A well-organized collection of copyright-free images.
  • New Old Stock: A collection of vintage photographs from public archives.

The Difference Between Featured Image & Thumbnail

‘Thumbnail’ is simply another word for a featured image.

‘Featured image’ is the official term, but the word ‘thumbnail’ is also used quite commonly. Even the WordPress Codex page about featured images has been given the title Post Thumbnails.

‘Featured image’ is a better description of the purpose of these images. The term ‘thumbnail’ doesn’t fully describe how the image is intended to represent the contents of the post.

The Difference Between Featured Image and Cover Image

Cover images are used in the content area of your posts or pages. They are normally used to separate different sections of a lengthy page or post.

A featured image is the representative image of an article. It’s displayed before or alongside the content but not inside the actual article.

For more on this topic, see our ultimate guide on the difference between the cover image and featured image in WordPress.

Fixed Background Option in Cover Block in Gutenberg

We hope this article helped you learn more about featured images on your WordPress site. You may also want to see our Additional Reading list below for related articles on useful WordPress tips, tricks, and ideas.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Additional Reading

Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress experts led by Syed Balkhi with over 16 years of experience in WordPress, Web Hosting, eCommerce, SEO, and Marketing. Started in 2009, WPBeginner is now the largest free WordPress resource site in the industry and is often referred to as the Wikipedia for WordPress.

The Ultimate WordPress Toolkit

Get FREE access to our toolkit - a collection of WordPress related products and resources that every professional should have!