Papyrus (typeface)

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

Papyrus is a widely available 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] Costello released the font the following year 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 $2,300 in 2022), 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 EF Regular (sample)

An alternative font published by Elsner+Flake is Papyrus EF Alternatives (or Papyrus EF Regular), providing a slight variation to Costello's font. Its differences include a shorter, sharper capital P, a capital E with a top bar longer than the middle bar, and a swash A.


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 very 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]

Papyrus has been used in numerous TV show opening credits such as Medium (2005–2011) and Eureka (2006–2012).[9] It was also used in the episode credits and end credits of the first four seasons of Samurai Jack.

In James Cameron's movie Avatar, the typeface is used in the title and subtitles.[10] Its use in the film was highlighted in a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Ryan Gosling,[1][11] which also mentioned that it is widely used for Shakira merchandise, hookah bars, and off-brand tea companies.[12] Jon Landau, the producer of both Avatar films, claims that the sketch helped to keep Avatar relevant during production of the second film.[13] 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;[13] however, Papyrus is still used for subtitles.[14]

Papyrus is the name of a character in Toby Fox's game Undertale. The brother of Sans, his dialogue is presented in uppercase Papyrus.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Carissimo, Justin (1 October 2017). "Papyrus font creator reacts to viral "Avatar" skit from "Saturday Night Live"". CBS News. Retrieved 1 October 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Costello, Chris (2003). "2003 Interview". Chris Costello official site. Retrieved 2015-12-05. I soon came up with what vernacular writing may have looked like if the English language existed 2000 years ago.
  3. ^ "Type Gallery – Papyrus". Linotype. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  4. ^ Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer. "Papyrus creator reacts to that 'Avatar' skit from 'SNL'". CNET. Retrieved 2023-01-17.
  5. ^ "Microsoft Typography: Papyrus – Version 1.11". Microsoft Corporation.
  6. ^ "Mac OS X 10.3: Fonts list". Apple Inc. Last updated 2008-07-24.
  7. ^ by (2022-06-22). "Why Papyrus is One of the World's Most Hated Fonts | HipFonts". Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  8. ^ "Papryus Watch". Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  9. ^ "What font was used in the opening credits for the sci-fi TV series Eureka?".
  10. ^ Simon Garfield (2010). Just My Type: A Book about Fonts. Profile Books. ISBN 978-1-84668-301-5.
  11. ^ Kennedy, Mark (1 October 2017). "New Season of SNL Roars Back by Mocking Donald Trump Early". U.S. News & World Report. AP.
  12. ^ Brewer, Jenny (3 October 2017). "Designer of Papyrus font reacts to Ryan Gosling's SNL takedown". It's Nice That. Retrieved 24 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ a b Jackson, Matthew (9 December 2022). "The 'Avatar' Team Saw The 'SNL' Sketch And Designed A New Font For The Sequels". Syfy. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  14. ^ Perry, Spencer (15 December 2022). "Does Avatar: The Way of Water Include the Papyrus Font?". Paramount Global. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  15. ^ Michael Reece Ward, Travis (8 April 2021). "Undertale: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Papyrus". TheGamer. Retrieved 23 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]