Post thumbnails — also known as featured images — are an essential part of any WordPress website; they make your WordPress site look professional and provide crucial visual context. Managing these images is simple and easy with a WordPress-featured image plugin.
Your WordPress theme controls the display of these images but WordPress’ built-in thumbnail generation system 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 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 configured 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, custom image sizes. To define your own image sizes, you’ll have to add the following line of code to your 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 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 of these challenges. This type of plugin might allow you to set custom image sizes without adding code to your theme files. Or it can 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 a single post or page or to show image thumbnails in a display of recent posts.
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.
Pro-Tip: This plugin is great for when you need to change your WordPress theme and your existing images are the wrong size. There is no easy, built-in way to resize all your previously uploaded images, so this plugin is great for beginners looking for a fix without having to get into the code.
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.
Pro-Tip: With this plugin, you can mark multiple images as your featured image. However, to actually get those images to appear on your site, you will have to run a bit of code. Here are some detailed instructions that take you through the process step by step.
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.
Pro-Tip: Quick Featured Images is ideal for site owners of large, image-rich websites who need to manage lots of featured images in less time.
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 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.
Pro-Tip: Thumbnails does not directly modify your blog or media library, this means you can safely use (and later delete) the plugin without affecting the functionality of your website.
The default Recent Posts widget 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.
Pro-Tip: This plugin just expands on WordPress’ default widget, so if you’re already familiar with the Recent Posts widget, this plugin will be easy to use.
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.
Pro-Tip: 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.
Pro-Tip: There is no easy way to crop images on WordPress’ native platform, this plugin is an intuitive solution to give developers full control over cropped image sizes.
Like the Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails plugin, the Related Posts Thumbnails Plugin for WordPress allows you to create a display of related posts with image thumbnails.
What sets the 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.
Pro-Tip: This plugin receives frequent support, making it developer-friendly.
Auto Featured Image is a free plugin designed to 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 are 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.
Pro-Tip: This plugin is great because of its efficiency and intuitive interface. Use it to create a featured image and enhance your website in less than five seconds.
Real Thumbnail Generator is a premium plugin that allows you to regenerate the existing thumbnails in your media library either individually or in bulk.
This plugin can also detect and delete any unused image sizes that might exist if you switched WordPress themes.
Pro-Tip: Whether you regenerate individual images or images in bulk, this plugin regenerates thumbnails up to 33% faster than other plugins.
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 a 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.