How to Control Featured Image Permissions in WordPress

A couple of PublishPress users have asked us about the “Featured Image” feature in WordPress.

We have already talked about forcing users to add featured images and how to control the size of featured images.

These users wanted to know if it is possible to control who can add featured images to content. Yes, you can control this in WordPress, although it's not entirely straightforward.

This image below shows where you will see the “Featured Image” box when editing a post:

Access to the “Featured Image” box is controlled by a WordPress permission called upload_files.

If a user doesn't have the upload_files permission, they completely lose access to the Media Library. They can’t upload any files, and that includes the “Featured Image” area.

By default in WordPress, there is no distinction between permission to add “Featured Images” and permission to upload other images.

If a user doesn’t have the “upload_files” capability, this is what they will see when they try to add a Featured Image: “To edit the featured image, you need permission to upload media.”

If you want to control who has Featured Image access, I'll show you how to do it …

Install the PublishPress Capabilities plugin which will allow you to enable or disable the upload_files capability for each user role.

  • Go to “Capabilities” in your WordPress admin menu.
  • In the top-left corner of the screen, load the user role that you want to customize. In this example I’ll choose the “Editor” role.
  • In the center of the screen, you can now set the permissions. If you want to allow people in the Editor role to create posts, click the “Media” tab and then check the “upload files” box:

If you want more on access the Media Library in WordPress, check out the tutorial, “Which WordPress Users Can Delete Files From the Media Library?

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  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of PublishPress. He's been working with open source software for over 20 years. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. This profile is generated by the PublishPress Authors plugin.

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  1. Hello, in contact by email, you informed me about this page to solve my problem (enable “Featured image” for user of type “author”). It happens that in the rules the item “upload files” is already active and still the informed field only appears to the administrator.
    Can you tell me if this license is only allowed for the PRO version? Otherwise, I think there may be a flaw in the free version plugin.

    1. Hi Thiago. In that situation, it sounds like something else (maybe another plugin is interfering). Are you sure you’re editing the correct user role?

      The “upload files” permission really does control access to the “Featured Image”.

  2. Hello Steve,
    I have the same problem with permissions for a custom post type. Upload files is enabled, but it’s not possible to upload a featured image. This user only has permissions for the custom post type and no permissions for normal posts. Maybe that’s why this happens?

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