Post thumbnails — also known as featured images — are an important part of any WordPress website. These images represent an individual post, page, or custom post type in WordPress. In addition to making your WordPress site look professional, thumbnails can attract your visitors’ attention to different pieces of content on your site and provide important visual context.
For example, a blog post about centering a div might have a featured image of a person in front of a computer screen of code. That way, a reader who isn’t familiar with the HTML element “div” might still be able to understand this post is about coding.
Your WordPress theme controls the display of these images. However, the built-in thumbnail generation system in WordPress is not always effective. To create properly sized, and high-quality image thumbnails without worrying about using functions or editing your theme’s functions.php file, you can use a WordPress plugin.
In this post, we have collected some of the best image thumbnail plugins for WordPress to take care of all aspects related to your featured image thumbnails. First, let's look at why you might prefer to use a plugin over WordPress's default post thumbnail system.
Why Use a WordPress Thumbnail Plugin
WordPress makes it easy to set a featured image for a post or page in WordPress. In fact, the new Gutenberg block editor has a built-in featured image function.
By default, WordPress will create the following image sizes:
- Thumbnail: 150px x 150px max
- Medium: 300px x 300px max
- Large: 400px x 400px max
- Full Size: the original size of the image you uploaded
You can configure these sizes in the WordPress Administration Media panel by going to Settings > Media in your dashboard.
Once you've configuring these settings, WordPress’s native resizing function will resize every image you upload according to the image sizes defined by your theme.
While simple, this process has two major limitations.
The first is that it doesn't allow you to create additional, customize image sizes. If you’d like to define your own image sizes, then you’ll have to add the following line of code to you theme’s functions.php file:
the_post_thumbnail( array( 100, 100 ) ); // Other resolutions (height, width)
This can be risky for users with little technical experience, since editing core theme files can break functionality on your site.
The second problem is that if you ever want to re-configure your media settings or switch your theme to one that defines different image sizes, you’ll have to resize the featured images of your existing posts and pages. This can take a while depending on the number of posts and pages on your site.
Using a WordPress thumbnail plugin can solve both these challenges. This type of plugin might allow you to set custom image sizes without adding code to your theme files, or to regenerate the correct thumbnail sizes for images used in existing posts and pages or previously uploaded in your media library so you can switch your media settings or theme worry-free. It might also offer advanced functionality that WordPress doesn't out-of-the-box, like the ability to set multiple featured images in single post or page or to show image thumbnails in a display of recent posts.
Let’s check out some of the best WordPress thumbnail plugins and their key features below.
Best WordPress Thumbnail Plugins
- Regenerate Thumbnails
- Dynamic Featured Image
- Quick Featured Images
- Recent Posts Widget with Thumbnails
- Related Posts Thumbnails Plugin for WordPress
- Auto Featured Image
- WordPress Real Thumbnail Generator
With over one million installs, Regenerate Thumbnails is the most popular WordPress thumbnail plugin. It allows you to regenerate all thumbnail sizes for images that have been uploaded to your Media Library individually or in bulk.
You can also use this plugin to quickly delete old or unused thumbnails in order to free up server space.
Dynamic Featured Image is a unique thumbnail plugin for WordPress. Instead of limiting you to one thumbnail like the native WordPress featured image function, this free plugin allows you to add multiple featured images to a single post or page — without writing any code. This is particularly important if you use other plugins, post thumbnails, or sliders that use featured images.
Quick Featured Images is ideal for site owners of large, image-rich websites who need to manage lots of featured images in less time.
With this plugin, you can set, replace, and remove featured images for hundreds of posts and pages at the same time. Or, if you’re looking for a bit more granular control, you can set, replace, and remove featured images only of posts and pages of a particular post type, category or tag using the plugin’s filters. You can also define presets for controlling how the plugin automatically sets the featured images of new posts and pages in the future.
Thumbnails is a free plugin that enhances the native WordPress thumbnail generation system. Since WordPress does not regenerate post thumbnail when new sizes are registered, the Thumbnails plugin intercepts requests made by themes or plugins to WordPress to get a specific thumbnail and generates the thumbnail itself. It then caches and saves it to a folder in your root directory.
As a result, your visitors will see perfectly cropped images without experiencing any delay in load time or other website performance issues.
The default Recent Posts widget in WordPress allows you to create a display of recent posts quickly and easily. The problem is this native widget doesn't show post thumbnails, which can make the display fall flat. If you want your recent post display to stand out, you can use this plugin.
The Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails plugin enhances the built-in Recent Posts widget so you can show the featured images of your recent posts. This plugin also allows you to add other details, like post excerpts and assigned categories, to enhance this display.
Videopack — formerly known as Video Embed & Thumbnail Generator — is a thumbnail plugin specifically designed for video. With this plugin, you can generate multiple thumbnails for your videos (as long as they can be played natively in your browser, or if you have FFMPEG installed on your server). You can then insert these video thumbnails into your WordPress post or page, or build a video slider. This plugin is ideal for creating video sharing sites on WordPress.
Crop-Thumbnails is a free plugin designed for a niche purpose. It provides the functionality required to adjust the crop region of images in the Media dialog box. Below the fields for adding an alt text, title, caption, and description to your image, a Crop Featured Image button will be added. Clicking on this button will open the crop editor, where you can choose one or more image sizes and cut off the part of the image you want to feature.
Like the Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails plugin, Related Posts Thumbnails Plugin for WordPress allows you to create a display of related posts with image thumbnails.
What sets Related Posts Thumbnails Plugin for WordPress apart is that it does not just enhance the default Related Posts Widget. Instead, it adds a new block to the Gutenberg editor. That way, you can simply drag and drop the block to add a display of related posts to a post or page. You can then specify the number of related posts to display and customize the background, border, text, and more of that display.
Auto Featured Image is a free plugin designed to help you create a featured image for any post and page on your site in seconds. With this plugin, you can generate or remove featured images of posts or pages in bulk or by post type, status, category, or creation date.
What makes this plugin unique is its settings. You can configure the plugin settings to set a featured image for a post or page in three ways: based on the images it finds in the post, based on the post title, or both. That means if there are images in the post, it will set the first image as the featured image. If there’s no images, then it will create an image of the title against a background image or color and set that as the featured image.
You can also search and upload featured images from popular stock platforms, like Pixabay and Unsplash, without leaving your dashboard.
Real Thumbnail Generator is a premium plugin that allows you to regenerate the existing thumbnails in your media library much more quickly than you could manually or using other plugins. Whether you regenerate individual images or images in bulk, this plugin regenerates thumbnails up to 33% faster than other plugins.
This plugin can also detect and delete any unused image sizes that might exist if you switched WordPress themes, for example.
Using a WordPress Thumbnail Plugin on Your Site
Using a WordPress thumbnail plugin can provide more control over the featured images on your site. With the plugins above, you can set custom image sizes without adding code to your theme files, regenerate the correct thumbnail sizes for images used in existing posts and pages or previously uploaded in your media library, or set multiple featured images in single post or page (or all of the above!). Selecting one of these plugins can provide you peace of mind when switching your media settings or theme, or completely redesigning your site.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Mar 26, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated March 26 2021