WordPress has a powerful media library that simplifies the management of all the images you uploaded to your server. In principle, when we want add an image to one of your posts, we choose one from our media library (or we upload a new one there). However, there’s no need to upload the image to our WordPress server always—there are cases in which we hot link the image from somewhere else. In these situations, we basically upload the image to another server and we add a plain <img> HTML tag in our post’s content. Why would one do that? Well, depending on the server where the images are hosted, the benefits are clear: balance load, improve transfer speed, optimize resources…

If you usually hotlink the images in your posts, then you probably know that WordPress can only use images in the media library as the featured image. There are, of course, solutions to this unfortunate fact: you may, for example, create a custom field in your WordPress and then modify your theme so that it uses the custom field instead of the standard featured image.

However, modifying the theme to solve this problem can be tricky. Just think all the files you’ll have to tweak! Moreover, if you know how WordPress works, you’ll probably know that WordPress creates alternative versions of every single image you upload to its library (default sizes are thumbnail, medium, large, and full, plus those defined by your theme), and your theme can use one or the other as it wills… Do you really want to get your hands that dirty?

External Featured Images using URLs

Nelio has released a new plugin that solves this problem!. Nelio External Featured Image adds a new screen option box in the Dashboard’s Edit Post page that will let you type the URL of the featured image. Once the post is saved and published, the image referenced by this URL will be used by your theme transparently. And not only this! The plugin does also take into account the size of the thumbnail that is being requested, and the image will be scaled and cropped appropriately using CSS techniques.

Screenshot of Nelio External Featured Image
Screenshot of the Edit Post page with the Nelio External Featured Image plugin enabled

So, if you want to use external featured images, our plugin is what you need. We hope you like it and, please, if you have any suggestions on how to improve it, tell us!

Edit Feb 23rd, 2015. I’ve decided to finally close the comments on this post. If you have any issues using the plugin, please describe them in the plugin’s support area at This way, we can have all the support threads in one single place. Thanks, folks!

Featured image by Cubmundo.

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