Papyrus (typeface)

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Designer(s)Chris Costello
Date created1982
Date released1983
Re-issuing foundriesLinotype
Shown herePapyrus EF Alternatives

Papyrus is a typeface designed by Chris Costello, a graphic designer, illustrator, and web designer. Created in 1982 and released by Linotype, it has a number of distinctive characteristics, including rough edges, irregular curves, and high horizontal strokes in the capitals.

History and overview[edit]

Costello created the font in 1982, when he was 23 years old and just out of college. He had been studying the Bible and came onto the idea of what a written font would have looked like in biblical times in the Middle East.[1] He hand-drew the font over a period of six months by means of calligraphy pen and textured paper. Costello described his goal as a font that would represent what English language texts would have looked like if written on papyrus 2000 years ago.[2] The following year, Costello released the font alongside Letraset. Papyrus has a number of distinctive characteristics, including rough edges, irregular curves, and high horizontal strokes in the capitals. ITC, the current owner of the typeface, describes it as an "unusual roman typeface [that] effectively merges the elegance of a traditional roman letterform with the hand-crafted look of highly skilled calligraphy".[3] Costello sold the rights for the font for $750 (equivalent to $2,400 in 2023), and as of 2017, states he still receives "very low" royalty payments despite its inclusion since 2000 on all personal computers using a Mac or Microsoft operating system.[1] In any case, Costello claims "it was not my intent (for it) to be used for everything. It's way overused."[4]


Papyrus has been included in many Microsoft programs for Windows.[5] macOS includes Papyrus font as part of its basic installation (starting with version 10.3 Panther, released in 2003).[6]

Reception and use in popular culture[edit]

Over the years, Papyrus has gained infamy for its omnipresence in graphic design, usually in situations for which it was not intended. The criticism towards the typeface is similar to that of Comic Sans.[7] In 2008, a website named "Papyrus Watch" was created for documenting the typeface's ubiquity and misusage.[8]

In the movie Avatar, the typeface is used in the title and subtitles.[9][page needed] Its use in the film was highlighted in a 2017 Saturday Night Live sketch tilted Papyrus featuring Ryan Gosling,[1][10] which also mentioned that it is widely used for Shakira merchandise, hookah bars, and off-brand tea companies.[11] Jon Landau, the producer of both Avatar films, claims that the sketch helped to keep Avatar relevant during production of the second film.[12] In preparation for the expansion of the Avatar franchise, Avatar: The Way of Water saw the film series change to a proprietary font called Toruk;[12] Papyrus is still used for subtitles.[13] Gosling starred in a second Saturday Night Live short while hosting in April 2024, called Papyrus 2, continuing the jokes from the first one following the release of Avatar: The Way of Water.[14]

Papyrus is the name of a character from the video game Undertale. He is a talking skeleton whose dialogue is presented in uppercase Papyrus.[15][unreliable source?]


  1. ^ a b c Bey, Justin (1 October 2017). "Papyrus font creator reacts to viral "Avatar" skit from "Saturday Night Live"". CBS News. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  2. ^ Costello, Chris (2003). "Chris Costello—Interview". Chris Costello official site. Archived from the original on 3 October 2003. Retrieved 19 February 2024. I soon came up with what vernacular writing may have looked like if the English language existed 2000 years ago.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ "Type Gallery – Papyrus". Linotype. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  4. ^ Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer (2 October 2017). "Papyrus font creator faces up to Ryan Gosling's 'SNL' skit". CNET. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  5. ^ "Papyrus - Version 1.11". Microsoft Typography. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ "Mac OS X 10.3: Fonts list". Apple Support. Archived from the original on 18 September 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ Ovsyannykov, Igor (22 June 2022). "Why Papyrus is One of the World's Most Hated Fonts". HipFonts. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  8. ^ "Papryus Watch". Papyrus Watch. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  9. ^ Garfield, Simon (2010). Just My Type: A Book about Fonts. Profile Books. ISBN 978-1-84668-301-5.
  10. ^ Kennedy, Mark (1 October 2017). "New Season of SNL Roars Back by Mocking Donald Trump Early". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  11. ^ Brewer, Jenny (3 October 2017). "Designer of Papyrus font reacts to Ryan Gosling's SNL takedown". It's Nice That. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  12. ^ a b Jackson, Matthew (9 December 2022). "The 'Avatar' Team Saw The 'SNL' Sketch And Designed A New Font For The Sequels". Syfy Wire. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  13. ^ Perry, Spencer (15 December 2022). "Does Avatar: The Way of Water Include the Papyrus Font?". Paramount Global. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  14. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (14 April 2024). "'Papyrus': Ryan Gosling Back For Sequel To Cult 'SNL' Skit". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 14 April 2024.
  15. ^ Ward, Travis (8 April 2021). "Undertale: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Papyrus". TheGamer. Retrieved 19 February 2024.