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Ways to get post thumbnails in Wordpress

With Wordpress there are a lot of ways to the same thing, for good reason, sometimes you can’t do it one way or the other. This can make it tricky to remember how to do it for each instance. At least this is the case for me. I want to use this post to serve as a guide for each method of doing so. I won’t be covering their parameters, just the necessary steps to retrieve an image.

Getting the thumbnail

These functions are commonly used during the loop, because with the_post() it gives us access. Though they can be used anywhere, in custom loops or custom post types, with a minor change.

Everywhere the_post_thumbnail() is mentioned it can equally be replaced with echo get_the_post_thumbnail(). It depends on your preferences.

Inside the loop

while ( have_posts() ) : the_post();

  the_post_thumbnail();

endwhile;

Inside a custom post type

Inside a custom post type is very much like the loop, however, we have to call the_post() on the WP_Query object.

$custom_post_type = new WP_Query( array(
  'post_type'      => 'portfolio',
  'post_status'    => 'publish',
  'posts_per_page' => -1,
) );

while ( $custom_post_type->have_posts() ) : $custom_post_type->the_post();

  the_post_thumbnail();

endwhile;

Getting the thumbnail URL

Sometimes you may want to get the image src to use it for an inline style. You have access to an array which will return the URL, width, and height.

Everywhere the_post_thumbnail() is mentioned it can equally be replaced with echo get_the_post_thumbnail(). It depends on your preferences.

Inside the loop

while ( have_posts() ) : the_post();

  the_post_thumbnail_url();

endwhile;

Inside custom post type

Very similar, again, we need to make sure we set up the template tags.

$custom_post_type = new WP_Query( array(
  'post_type'      => 'portfolio',
  'post_status'    => 'publish',
  'posts_per_page' => -1,
) );

while ( $custom_post_type->have_posts() ) : $custom_post_type->the_post();

    the_post_thumbnail_url();

endwhile;

Without using helper functions

Setting up the post template tags is much more convenient, however, for completeness you can do it without those. However, it does give you access to a few more attributes this way.

The loop

while ( have_posts() ) : the_post();

  $image = wp_get_attachment_image_src($post_id);
  $image_url = $image[0];
  $image_width = $image[1];
  $image_height = $image[2];

endwhile;

Custom post type

$custom_post_type = new WP_Query( array(
  'post_type'      => 'portfolio',
  'post_status'    => 'publish',
  'posts_per_page' => -1,
) );

while ( $custom_post_type->have_posts() ) : $custom_post_type->the_post();

  $image = wp_get_attachment_image_src($custom_post_type->ID);
  $image_url = $image[0];
  $image_width = $image[1];
  $image_height = $image[2];

endwhile;

Inside functions.php or outside of a loop

Outside of a loop we don’t have access to the_post(). So using setup_postdata() is a close equivalent of doing that. Which gives us access to the template tag functions. You won’t need to do this frequently, but it is handy for certain situations.

Custom function for use in single posts

function custom_post_thumbnail()
{
  global $post;
  setup_postdata($post);

  the_post_thumbnail();
}

Usage

It can then be used like any other function in your template, in or out of the loop.

custom_post_thumbnail();

You could also add an action to your template.

In single.php or another template

do_action('before_single_post_loop');

while ( have_posts() ) : the_post();

  // Post content

endwhile;

Addition to custom function

function custom_post_thumbnail()
{
  global $post;
  setup_postdata($post);

  the_post_thumbnail();
}

add_action('before_single_post_loop', 'custom_post_thumbnail');

That’s it

These are all the ways that I’ve come across to add a post thumbnail. Are there any I have forgot? Let me know on twitter.

Next to read

Wordpress functions to help make your life easier