Solving Default Featured Image Issue in WordPress posts and articles


As a WordPress user, you may have encountered a common issue: some posts within specific categories lack featured images. When this happens, it can lead to an inconsistent and unattractive appearance on your website's archive and category pages. Thankfully, there's a simple solution to this problem that involves writing a custom script in the functions.php file of your WordPress theme. In this article, I'll explain how to implement this script step-by-step, ensuring that posts without featured images will display a default image of your choice in designated categories.

Understanding the Code

Let's start by examining the code that achieves this functionality. Below is the custom script written in PHP:

// Display default featured image for specific categories
function custom_default_category_image($html, $post_id, $post_image_id) {
    // Add the IDs of the categories you want to display the default image for
    $category_ids = array(1, 2, 3); // Replace these with your category IDs

    if (has_post_thumbnail($post_id)) {
        return $html;
    } elseif (has_term($category_ids, 'category', $post_id)) {
        // Replace 'default-image.jpg' with the path to your default image in the wp-content folder
        $default_image = '<img src="' . content_url() . '/uploads/default-image.jpg" alt="Default Featured Image" />';
        return $default_image;

    return $html;
add_filter('post_thumbnail_html', 'custom_default_category_image', 10, 3);

Explanation of the Code

  1. The function custom_default_category_image($html, $post_id, $post_image_id) is the heart of this script. It takes three parameters:

    • $html: The HTML markup of the featured image for the current post.

    • $post_id: The ID of the current post being processed.

    • $post_image_id: The ID of the featured image attached to the current post.

  2. Inside the function, we create an array called $category_ids, where you can add the IDs of the categories for which you want to display the default image. For example, if you want to display the default image for categories with IDs 1, 2, and 3, you would write: $category_ids = array(1, 2, 3);.

  3. The conditional statements inside the function ensure that:

    • If the post already has a featured image (has_post_thumbnail($post_id)), the function returns the original HTML markup for the featured image (return $html;).

    • If the post falls under one of the specified categories (has_term($category_ids, 'category', $post_id)), the function returns a custom HTML markup for the default image.

  4. The URL to the default image is set using the content_url() function, which points to the 'uploads' directory in the 'wp-content' folder. The image path is specified as 'uploads/default-image.jpg'.

  5. Finally, the add_filter() function hooks our custom function into the 'post_thumbnail_html' filter, ensuring it runs when the featured image is being generated.

Implementing the Code

To implement this code on your WordPress website, follow these steps:

  1. Access your WordPress dashboard and navigate to "Appearance" > "Theme Editor."

  2. In the right-hand side file list, locate and open the functions.php file.

  3. Copy and paste the provided code at the end of the functions.php file.

  4. Customize the $category_ids array with the category IDs you want to target.

  5. Upload the default image you wish to display to the 'uploads' folder inside the 'wp-content' directory and replace 'uploads/default-image.jpg' with the correct path.

  6. Click the "Update File" button to save the changes.


By implementing this simple custom script in your WordPress theme's functions.php file, you can ensure that posts within specific categories always display a default featured image when no specific image is set. This enhances the overall consistency and visual appeal of your website, making it more attractive to visitors. The code provided is easy to customize and can be extended to meet your specific needs, offering a valuable solution to the default featured image issue in WordPress categories.

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Theo van der Sluijs by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!