What is a featured image in WordPress?

Let’s say a website or blog regularly publishes dozens of posts. They will list these posts in a variety of places on the website to make them easily accessible to viewers. What do the website developers use to represent these posts in such situations? They use post titles. For example, this particular post is titled “What is the featured image in WordPress”. Whenever you see this headline on the website, you’ll know we’re talking about this post.

Featured images are similar to post titles in this respect. Each post can have a single featured image to represent it. In this post, I will teach you how to use featured images in your WordPress theme.

The first thing I would like to discuss is that featured images are not enabled by default. Individual theme developers need to enable support for featured images. However, the process is quite simple and only requires adding a single line to your theme functions.php file as shown below.

This row will give you access to featured images or post thumbnails on your website.

Add featured images to a post in WordPress

If featured images are enabled for your theme, you’ll be able to set them for individual posts by visiting the Edit post screen. You can access the post edit screen by visiting first Posts > All Posts from your WordPress admin dashboard after logging into your account. This should show you a list of posts.

Move your cursor over any post for which you want to add a featured image. This should show a number of menu options like Change And Quick edit. By clicking on the Change The button will take you to the Edit Post screen for that particular post.

Edit post buttonEdit post button

Once you’re on the Edit Post screen, you’ll see a number of options in the right sidebar. The sidebar will have two tabs called To send And To block. Make sure you have selected To send. This will show you some general settings related to the post. You will find things like categories and author mentioned here. Scroll down a bit and you will see a section for Featured image. Click on Set featured image button to open a pop-up displaying all images from your media library.

Set featured imageSet featured imageSet featured image

Select the picture you like and then click Set featured image button as shown below. Let’s say the image is not currently uploaded to the website. You can just go to Upload files tab, drop the files there to upload, and then set them as featured images.

Selection of featured imagesSelection of featured imagesSelection of featured images

Can you see the option to set featured images only on specific post types?

If so, there is a strong possibility that the theme developers have enabled featured image support only for specific post types. You should contact them for further assistance.

Exactly where a featured image you’ve added to a post might appear will depend on the theme developer. As mentioned above, featured images are not actually part of the content and are only representative of a post.

Let’s say you’re writing a post about the 10 tallest buildings in the world. The post will have an introduction and then a list of the tallest buildings. You will likely add 10 different images to your post to represent each of the 10 buildings. A featured image, on the other hand, would likely be a collage showing some of the buildings in the post on a single image.

There are a few places where a theme developer might want to place a featured image:

  1. Featured images can appear on blog index pages, category pages, tag pages, and archive pages. Basically, all the places where you intend to display a list of posts.
  2. Theme developers could also add featured images at the top of the post content just below the post title on the main post page.
  3. Featured images may also appear on social media websites where you or other users may share the post link.

These three are the most common uses of featured images. However, a theme developer could use them in other places as well. It’s also not a guarantee that a featured image will definitely appear in the three places I’ve listed.

Here is an example of featured images on Envato Tuts+.

Example of featured imagesExample of featured imagesExample of featured images

The style and size of the featured images that are displayed in different places on your website is also determined by the theme developers.

Featured images are meant to help you get more traffic, and over time you’ll likely come up with new ideas for your featured images. Luckily, WordPress allows you to replace or even remove the featured images you set earlier.

All you have to do is go back to the Edit post screenshot for the post whose featured image you want to replace or remove. Once there, you will see a sidebar with To send And To block written above. Click on To send to make it the active tab and you will see the featured image set after scrolling down a bit.

Just below the featured image preview, you’ll see two buttons. One called Replace image to replace the picture and the other call Remove the foreground image to remove the current foreground image.

Replacing featured imagesReplacing featured imagesReplacing featured images

As mentioned above, featured images are used in a variety of places on a website and social media whenever a post is shared. This begs the question, what is the ideal size for a close-up image?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer that will give you perfect image sizes for all places you might need to use featured images. However, you can get pretty good results with image sizes close to 2:1 aspect ratio.

Images should also be large enough to be sharp and not blurry when used in different locations. The sweet spot for this is with a 1200 pixel wide image. The height of the image should be around 630 pixels. Many online resources recommend a height of 628 pixels which is pretty close.

Featured images are not like regular post images that accompany the content. They have a slightly different purpose of promoting content. Therefore, you should consider spending some extra time creating some interesting, click-worthy featured images.

Whether you want to create your own featured images or just pull from a huge library of stock photos, you should definitely check out Envato Elements. A single subscription will give you royalty-free access to over 11 million creative assets across a variety of categories with a single subscription. In addition to stock photos, you can also find creative elements for your projects such as videos, music and fonts. You can even find some amazing premium WordPress themes and plugins!

Envato Elements subscriptionEnvato Elements subscriptionEnvato Elements subscription

Final thoughts

In this post, I have tried to answer many beginner questions related to featured images in WordPress, such as what are featured images, how are they useful, how can you set, replace or remove featured images and the ideal size of foreground images among others .

Want to learn more about featured images? Here is an article that shows you how to change the size of your featured images from your WordPress admin dashboard.

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