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Create Scary Images With Free Ghoulish Font

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Ghoulish

    PCWorld Rating

The season of novelty typefaces looms before us and so does the perfect time to rescreen a vintage horror film. I'll be announcing my screening of B-Movie Producer Roger Corman's Creature from the Haunted Sea with Ghoulish, a free font designed Canadian art director Gary Pullin, a man who takes unnatural delight in putting the chill into a serif.

Ghoulish font screenshot
Within Ghoulish, a ragged hyphen becomes a design feature even as a change in scale turns caps into a second level of emphasis.
Ghoulish began life not as a font, but as a series of drawings for a layout in Rue Morgue, a publication exclusively devoted to horror in culture and entertainment. Art Director Pullin was aiming for the shock-factor of Corman film titles of the 1960's. Inspired by Damaged Goods, a font by Rotodesign, the art director drew the letters he needed by hand--adding creepy serifs and skewing the finished letters to stagger zombie-like above and below the baseline. The result was a fit for his pages, but far from a font until Chad Savage, a one-man design agency for the horror house industry, called to see if Pullin’s design was available for his own work.

Readers who frequent PCWorld’s font downloads may already know the four frights of Savage's Sinister Visions Font Quartet. No slouch at font creation, Savage proposed a collaboration. Pullin replied by sending a master file of his letterforms. These were re-mastered in Adobe Illustrator. The pair filled the gaps in the set; Savage hit the send button; and Ghoulish went digital.

Ghūl, the font's namesake, is a late 18th century Arabic term for a shape-shifting desert demon said to rob graves and devour corpses. The font Ghoulish resembles not so much a ghastly gourmand as the dark forest where this demon sleeps off the banquet. Pullin’s top serifs are twigged--winter-bare and fragile. The emphasis on weight in the font’s vertical stems mimics a heavy trunk, with lower serifs adding the effect of bare roots.

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Ghoulish font screenshot. Image copyright: Gary Pullin
Gary Pullin's sample of Ghoulish is a Cormanesque wonder. Image copyright: Gary Pullin.
houlish is a display face with a display face's quirks. The set is good and not so good, but clever designers shouldn't be put off. The font’s range of characters is limited; some letter pairs require more attention than others; upper and lowercase letters often share the same forms. Applying the shift key makes no difference, except in a few cases in which a capital design flips on its horizontal axis to make a mirror-image. Design tips: Use a change in scale for secondary words requiring a less important level of emphasis like and, of, or the, to create contrast on the page. A torn and ragged hyphen makes a versatile ornament when tracked tight, which can even be done using the advanced settings under the Format>Font menu in Microsoft Word.

Weighty Ghoulish works in measured doses of 72 points and above. Narrow counters and a minimal use of negative space within angled letters like W, M and V become a problem at 60 points and below.

To use this Corman-inspired novelty face in your collection, think like the producer himself. This year's family vacation video deserves new titling. For your consideration: "Bad Seeds of the Back Seat," set large as a scream in Ghoulish. Ghoulish comes with a commercial-free license. As long as you don't claim the font as your creation, there will be no scary calls from lawyers when your production goes viral.

Note: To use this font, unzip the folder and install the .ttf file in the folder C:\Windows\Fonts. Note that the font won't appear in your applications until you close and re-open it. For more guidance see How to Install and Uninstall Fonts in Windows.

--Kate Godfrey

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Ghoulish, a display font drawn by Canadian Art Director Gary Pullin, is a macabre delight.

    Pros

    • High-impact styling

    Cons

    • Limited range of letter styles
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