Including ACF within a plugin or theme

Last updated Nov 30, 2022


The Advanced Custom Fields plugin is a powerful tool for developing bespoke websites and web-apps. Although designed primarily for individual use, it may also be used as a framework by both plugin and theme authors to power their free and premium products.

We encourage authors to include ACF and have only a few simple rules to follow, which we hope you respect. This guide outlines the do’s and don’ts when including ACF within you plugin or theme.

Product Types

When talking about a WordPress product, we can consider it as either a plugin, theme, premium plugin or premium theme.

Our rules differ only if your product is considered as free or premium, and not if it is a plugin or theme.


Please see the following table of rules that govern the inclusion of our plugins.

Include in a free plugin
Include in a free theme
Include in a premium plugin ✉️
Include in a premium theme ✉️
Include in an “ACF” plugin
Share license key information
Use as a selling point

If you would like to include ACF PRO in your premium theme or plugin, please contact us to discuss the right subscription for you.

Notes about marketing

Although we love idea of you empowering your customers with intuitive publishing controls, we don’t love the idea of you advertising this to boost sales.

When including ACF PRO within your premium theme or premium plugin, please do not advertise this in your marketing material. For example, stay away from messages like “This theme also includes ACF PRO – normally $$$ – for free!”

Notes about “ACF” plugins

We do not allow ACF or ACF PRO to be included in any type of “ACF” extension or plugin. For example, a plugin named “ACF PRO Kit” that extends the plugin with extra features may not include ACF PRO. In this case, the “ACF PRO Kit” plugin should require ACF PRO to be installed.

How to include plugin files

To include ACF or ACF PRO within your plugin or theme, please download the appropriate ACF plugin files and copy them into your plugin or theme. We recommend using the folder “includes/acf” within your product files.

Next, use the following code as a starter to customize and include the ACF plugin into your plugin or theme.

Plugin / Theme PHP file

// Define path and URL to the ACF plugin. define( 'MY_ACF_PATH', get_stylesheet_directory() . '/includes/acf/' ); define( 'MY_ACF_URL', get_stylesheet_directory_uri() . '/includes/acf/' ); // Include the ACF plugin. include_once( MY_ACF_PATH . 'acf.php' ); // Customize the url setting to fix incorrect asset URLs. add_filter('acf/settings/url', 'my_acf_settings_url'); function my_acf_settings_url( $url ) { return MY_ACF_URL; } // (Optional) Hide the ACF admin menu item. add_filter('acf/settings/show_admin', '__return_false'); // When including the PRO plugin, hide the ACF Updates menu add_filter('acf/settings/show_updates', '__return_false', 100);

Including fields

Along with the plugin files itself, you will also need to include the field group definitions. We recommend either registering your field groups with PHP, or including a local JSON folder.