When browsing throw pillows, you'll notice many are sold as just covers—meaning you'll have to buy the inserts separately. "A pillow insert should always be one to two inches larger than the cover," says Alex Epstein, lead interior designer at Purple Cherry Architects, who prefers lofty feather-down blends. "This helps create a nice, full look."
With pointers from Epstein in mind, we researched standout options of various shapes, sizes, and fill materials.
Check out the best pillow inserts below.
Pillowflex Synthetic Down Pillow Insert
Holds shape well
49 sizes available
Larger sizes are pricey
When it comes to decorative pillow inserts, Pillowflex is tough to beat. This down-alternative pillow is filled with exceptionally plush poly fibers. The material is meant to mimic the loftiness of natural down, but in the context of throw cushions, it might be even better than the real thing.
You can really feel the silkiness and weight of the fill through the cotton-poly shell, and you won't have to worry about feathers poking through the fabric. This pillow holds its shape remarkably well, a perfect choice for creating the coveted hand-chop indentation. The core is even supportive enough for a comfy nap on the couch.
This insert is available in a whopping 47 sizes, including squares and rectangles, so you'll definitely find one that fits the cover you have in mind. The larger sizes are somewhat steep, but all things considered, we think the price range is reasonable. It's conveniently machine-washable, too.
Price at time of publish: $36
Available Sizes: 49 | Material: Poly fiber fill, cotton-poly shell | Weight: 0.5–5.5 pounds | Quantity: 1
Utopia Bedding Throw Pillows Insert (Pack of 2)
For something more affordable, consider Utopia Bedding. This budget-friendly insert comes in a set of two in your choice of 10 sizes ranging from 12- to 24-inch squares. It's filled with siliconized fibers, a super-light and lofty alternative to natural down.
Your pillows will arrive in flat, compressed packaging. You'll have to shake them out to achieve the full shape and fluff them frequently. They're not machine-washable, but you can spot-clean them as needed.
Available Sizes: 10 | Material: Siliconized fiber fill, polyester shell | Weight: 1–1.5 pounds | Quantity: 2
Williams Sonoma Down Pillow Insert
Better Cotton Initiative
Tricky care requirements
Potentially pokey quills
If you prefer real feathers, Williams Sonoma has you covered. Filled with 100 percent white duck feathers, this insert is luxuriously plump, though you might notice the occasional pokey quill. The material is certified by the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), so you know it's sourced from humanely treated fowl.
As for the shell, you're looking at cotton twill sourced from farms in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). There are four sizes available, including three squares and a rectangle. Just a heads up: this insert is machine-washable, but only in a commercial front-loading washer.
Price at time of publish: $18-24
Available Sizes: 6 | Material: Duck feather fill, cotton shell | Weight: Not listed | Quantity: 1
Best Feather-Down Blend
Coyuchi Down Feather Throw Pillow Insert
Fluffy and shapely
Organic cotton shell
Epstein is a fan of feather-down blends, like Coyuchi's Throw Pillow Insert. Boasting a 90/10 ratio of pure duck feathers and natural down fibers, it's extremely fluffy but also shapely enough to fill out a decorative cover.
While it's not RDS-certified, all down-filled products from Coyuchi are sourced from a single U.S.-based supplier that adheres to humane practices. We also like that this insert has an organic cotton shell. It's on the pricier side, but you'll be hard-pressed to find something of similar quality.
Price at time of publish: $88-$148
Available Sizes: 3 | Material: Feather-down fill, organic cotton shell | Weight: Not listed | Quantity: 1
Birch Lane Egor Basic Pillow Insert
Holds shape well
13 sizes available
If you have a feather allergy or just prefer animal-free fill, we recommend the Egor Insert from Birch Lane. This decorative pillow is stuffed full of lightweight poly fibers, so you can count on it holding its shape.
It comes in 13 sizes, including squares and rectangles, each 5 inches thick. This insert isn't machine-washable, but the removable zippered case makes it easy to clean.
Price at time of publish: $18
Available Sizes: 13 | Material: Poly fiber fill, polyester shell | Weight: 1–2 pounds | Quantity: 1
Parachute Down Alternative Euro Pillow
Traditional European design
Only one size
A Euro pillow is the European version of a decorative pillow. It's usually a 26-inch square and can be placed on a sofa or bed. We like this down-alternative option from Parachute, which is filled with lofty, hypoallergenic microfibers.
It has a 100 percent cotton shell with a silky-smooth sateen weave. The price is a bit steep for a decorative pillow, but thanks to the double-stitched seams, this durable insert is machine-washable and dryer-friendly. And Parachute backs it with a three-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $49
Available Sizes: 1 | Material: Microfiber fill, cotton sateen shell | Weight: 1.9 pounds | Quantity: 1
Best for Shams
Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow Insert
Plush and bouncy
Fills out shams
Hard to get shams on
Looking for a pillow for your bedding shams? Brooklinen's Down Alternative Insert might be your best bet. Sustainably sourced from recycled plastic bottles, the poly fiber core is incredibly plush and bouncy.
Though we wouldn't call it heavy, the silky weight of the fill material gives it a dense, gel-like feel. This insert will have no problem filling out your shams, but due to the snug fit, stuffing it in might be tricky. It isn't machine-washable, but you won't need to clean it as often as your bed pillows if you only use it for decorative layering.
Price at time of publish: $55.25 for a Standard
Available Sizes: 3 | Material: Poly fiber fill, cotton sateen shell | Weight: Not listed | Quantity: 1–4
Frontgate Outdoor Pillow Inserts
If you're designing an outdoor living space, go with these pillow inserts from Frontgate. The fill is 100 percent polyester, an inherently moisture-resistant material, and the shell is a weather-ready non-woven fabric that stands up to water damage.
This insert comes in five sizes, including three squares and two rectangles. While it's not machine-washable, you can hand-wash it as needed with soap and lukewarm water. But more important than the insert is having a weather-resistant cover for your outdoor pillows.
Price at time of publish: $14.25
Available Sizes: 5 | Material: Poly fiber fill, non-woven fabric shell | Weight: Not listed | Quantity: 1
Overall, we like the Pillowflex Synthetic Down Pillow. Available in nearly 50 sizes, this exceedingly plush decorative insert holds its shape well—a perfect option for the coveted hand-chop indentation. But if you prefer natural fill materials, we recommend Coyuchi's super-fluffy and humanely sourced Down Feather Throw Pillow Insert.
What to Look for in a Pillow Insert
According to Alex Epstein, lead interior designer at Purple Cherry Architects, throw pillow inserts should be one or two inches bigger than their covers to achieve a plush, full look. "This is especially true when using 22- or 24-inch square pillows, as you want to ensure the corners stand tall and don't flop," she says.
Square is the most common shape for pillow inserts. It's generally versatile and creates a distinction between decorative pillows and those used for sleeping. However, you'll also find rectangular and circular designs, as well as cylindrical bolsters and long, narrow lumbar pillows.
Fill material plays a crucial role in how shapely a throw pillow is. Epstein's go-to is a 75/25 ratio of feathers and down. "It's soft enough that it's plush to lean against but has enough structure to stand alone," she explains. (The closest we could find to this was a 90/10 feather-down ratio.)
You'll also find synthetic options, which are most often filled with poly fibers (very fine shreds of polyester). This type of insert is sometimes stiffer than feather-filled designs, but not always. Some are exceptionally lofty and plush.
Should you buy pillow covers and inserts separately?
"Buying decorative pillow covers and inserts separately is a great approach when trying to be budget-conscious," says Epstein. "But unfortunately, not all pillow covers are created equal, which means stuffing an insert into a cover can be a struggle."
In many cases, it's simply how these items are sold. Read through the product description before buying a throw pillow to confirm exactly what's included. "Additionally, most retailers will give you the option of purchasing the insert with the cover," says Epstein.
What is the sizing rule for pillow inserts?
Throw pillow inserts should be at least 1 inch larger than their covers—2 inches larger would be ideal. The idea is to create a full, plush appearance without any slack from the fabric. Epstein says this is particularly important for larger pillows, to ensure that they stand upright and hold their shape.
What is the best fill for throw pillows?
According to Epstein, the best fill for throw pillows is a blend of natural feathers and down. She says the combination is soft and plush without sacrificing the structure required to hold a shape. "This is true whether you love chopping pillows or letting them lay naturally."
There are also 100 percent feather inserts, which are lightweight and fluffy but may contain pokey quills. And many are filled with down-alternative poly fibers, which can be incredibly plush with a slightly heavier feel.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a freelance product reviewer and commerce writer specializing in home decor, textiles, and lifestyle. She interviewed Purple Cherry Architects lead interior designer Alex Epstein for buying tips and guidance on sizing and placement. After considering dozens of decorative pillow inserts, she selected options with a plush look and feel that hold their shape well, giving extra points for those that come in several sizes.
Holland uses Pillowflex inserts for her couch pillows and Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillows for her bed shams. You can read more of her stories on MyDomaine, Travel + Leisure, People, and Byrdie.