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A Mischievous Interview With the Creators of Mischief

Read Time: 7 mins

In recent weeks a new infinitely scalable tool has swept the internet and we here at Vectortuts+ are anxious to discuss it. The app features paint like qualities married with the infinite scalability of vector to create a whole new medium. This vector-like software is perfect for the digital artists among us who love to paint digitally but don't want to forfeit the vast resolutions and scalability that vector programs provide. This new application is called Mischief and is brought to you by the good folks at 61 Solutions, Inc.

Their goal? To provide a lightweight, highly responsive, infinite canvas to the masses. We had a chance to sit down with their CEO and discuss this new application and their future plans.

Art by Carly SankerArt by Carly SankerArt by Carly Sanker
Art by Carly Sanker, inspired by Alice X. Zhang's "Daughter of Trident", www.alicexz.com

Q First off, would you mind introducing yourself?

I'm Sarah Frisken, Founder and CEO of 61 Solutions, makers of Mischief.

Q Are there any other projects besides Mischief that you'd like to mention?

That's been our main focus for the past 4-5 years. But we've been working on the technology behind Mischief for almost 15 years. Most recently, we used it in a font rendering system called the Saffron Type System - it is the system that was adopted by Adobe Flash and then licensed by Macromedia. Macromedia licensed it to several OEM vendors and it is now the type system in the Amazon Kindle as well as several other systems.

Art by Carly Sanker

Q So… what's with the name "Mischief" anyway?

Good question. We were looking for a name that captured the spirit of what we are trying to do... we have a new way of representing and rendering digital strokes that we believe could really cause a stir in the digital art world. We want to do that in both a creative and playful way. We also want a name that speaks to our users - we don't want to be just another drawing program; we want people to look for something new, something a little bit rebellious, something fun.

–You've certainly caused a stir in the vector community!

The response has been very gratifying! We've been overwhelmed.

Art by Carly Sanker

Q Where did the idea/inspiration come from for Mischief?

I've always loved the art world – I started drawing classes in third grade and took art through high school and even fit in a few courses into my engineering schedule. About 5 years ago, we were approached by the Head of Research at Disney. They were having trouble finding a digital drawing program that their animators could use. The programs out there were not responsive enough and they didn't capture what was being drawn very well. It was very frustrating for the artists. I'd been doing some research on curve fitting and we were asked if we could try to create a drawing program that would satisfy their needs. Our whole focus in the beginning was to make sure that the pen/pencil just 'felt right'. I think that's one of the magical things about Mischief.

–Wow, that's amazing. Are you still in league with Disney and are there any projects Mischief was used on that you can disclose?

We no longer have a contract with them but we're still in contact. Unfortunately I can't talk any more about the details.

Art by Carly Sanker

Q So who was Mischief built for? Artists? Illustrators? Graphic Designers? Animators?

I guess the answer is 'yes' to all of those. Mischief was originally conceived as a way to sketch out ideas and explore concepts. The infinite canvas really provides a kind of freedom that seems to facilitate this. However, as you can see from our web page and Facebook page, people are using it to do more that sketch out ideas; they are creating quite beautiful pieces of art. We have plans for new brushes and work flows that will speak to all of these areas of art and design.

Art by Ani Avanian

Q There are some great pressure sensitive features to your brushes. Was Mischief made to only be used by graphic tablets?

We think that is where its greatest strength lies. In addition to the subtle control that you can get with pressure, graphics tablets offer higher resolution input (sub-pixel resolution and more samples per second) than mouse-based input (or finger-based input) and we take advantage of this higher resolution to provide better line control. That said, we've had lots of people who have asked for a mobile version just because of the freedom that the infinite canvas provides so providing a version for mobile devices is on our list.

Art by Carly Sanker

Q Are there any plans for cross software use? Such as being able to import/export Adobe Illustrator files or other vector file types?

Another good question. We recognise the importance of being able to fit into professional work flows – no matter how interesting a new technology is, people won't use it if it makes them less productive. That is one reason we made sure that we can export to images and layer Photoshop files. However, importing and exporting to vectors poses its own challenges. Our representation is vector-like because it is a mathematical representation that scales and rotates without artifacts, but it is different from the traditional vector representation (we call it a textured stroke representation). In many ways, textured strokes are a richer representation that cannot be captured by traditional vectors. That means exporting to Illustrator would either result in loss of quality or much larger file sizes except with the most simple brushes (such as the marker brushes). Importing from vector programs might be more possible but because we had conceived of Mischief as the first step in production (the sketching and conceptualizing step), we hadn't thought of people wanting to move in that direction

Art by Carly Sanker

Q You mentioned your work with text. Do you plan on providing a type/text tool at some point?

Yes, we think it's essential.

Q Do you have a road map of features you would like to include in Mischief?

We have our own road map and have had a lot of feedback from users during the past couple of weeks. We're using their input to focus our plans. We'll be sharing our road map more publicly as we formalize our plans.

Art by Carly Sanker

Q Do you have any personal suggestions for using Mischief? Preferences/features you find particularly helpful?

Well, I love the pencil tools myself, but that's just a personal preference. But the main hint is to check out all the features and menu items. There aren't very many of them, so it just takes a couple of minutes. We tried to make Mischief so easy to use that it doesn't need a manual, but there are some features that people don't find easily. In particular, the hot keys are listed in the Tips menu item (under Help on Windows systems and Mischief on Mac OS X), the paper can be selected and colored in the tool palette, and there are some preferences for cursor type and curve smoothing. We're working on some simple tutorials and other ways to get people started easily.

–I really liked that about the software. The tools were pretty straight forward and easy enough to locate. Mischief isn't bogged down with a lot of unnecessary frills.

We really believe that a great drawing program should be about the drawing, not all the bells and whistles so we try hard to keep the interface simple.

Art by Carly Sanker, inspired by Alice X. Zhang's "Wasp", www.alicexz.com

Q Thank you once again, Sarah, for taking the time to meet with me. This has been a very eye opening experience. In closing, is there anything else you would like to add?

We just want to extend thanks to everyone for their support and great feedback. The response has been amazing. We're really excited about continuing to grow and improve Mischief.

Art by Carly Sanker, inspired by Saniel Ilanca's "Away in a Sea of Red", http://idaniphotography.com


Mischief is still in the early stages, but true to its name has already stirred up trouble in the art world. We look forward to seeing what future updates will bring to the software. In the mean time, enjoy the ease of use, responsive art board, and infinite joys of painting at any size without loss of quality.

Please be sure to head on over to madewithmischief.com for a free trial or download the full version.

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