Mischief maker

A great friend and unstoppable artist, Heather Larkin, was G-chatting with me on Wednesday and mentioned new drawing software for the Mac and PC called Mischief. It’s groundbreaking vector-based drawing with a touch of deja-vu.

Test driving Mischief

I have to admit. Using Mischief was a lot of fun. The infinite zooming was really cool and I liked how speedy the program is with no lagging. It felt really good drawing on my Yiynova monitor and worked without a hitch. I think if I worked with it more, I’d discover more of the program’s power.

I’ve seen this face before

The software reminded me of a small program made by Creature House in the late 90s called Expression. Expression has a natural media vector illustration program. It had a user interface similar to Corel Painter. That makes sense because before Corel acquired Painter, both Painter and Expression were briefly distributed by Fractal Design. Expression was a program that no one knew what to do with or market. Eventually, the software was purchased by Microsoft and went the way of the Zune.

Expression was the first vector-based natural media program. See how it had a similar interface to Painter.
Expression was the first vector-based natural media program. See how it had a similar interface to Painter.

Also, Autodesk came out with an iPad app a while ago called Ink. It had a lot of the same characteristics as Mischief but the line quality was horrible. Exporting your illustration at different sizes gave you different line widths. It was more of a beta than an actual finished tool. You can read my early review of Ink to get a better idea of what I mean.

Exporting at different sizes gives different results in line quality. Click to enlarge image.
Exporting at different sizes gives different results in line quality. Click to enlarge image.

 What makes it awesome

The software is pretty incredible. If you’re using a Mac or PC, you can download the software and give it a whirl. If you need to read a manual or want shortcuts, download the manual.

  • Super easy to use: There’s a manual that you can download, but there really is no need. Most of the quick keys are identical to Adobe Photoshop or Artrage. There really is no ramping up with this software.
  • Limitless canvas/infinite zoom: Limitless canvas and infinite zoom are really incredible. Like MyPaint, Mischief lets you work in a limitless area. If you need to add move, just slide over to some empty space above or below your composition and continue drawing. The infinite zoom is really amazing. Have you ever been in Adobe Illustrator and gotten frustrated when stops you at the maximum zoom but you still need to get closer to your work? With Mishief you can get as intimate as you’d like.
  • Lossless drawing: Export a raster version of your file at any size!
  • Incredible speed and response: Unlike using tools like Adobe Illustrator’s blob tool, this software is lean and mean. You can apply hundreds of strokes and your system never feels sluggish. It’s really responsive.

What I’d like to see

Mischief is still in its infancy, only having been released in June of this year. I’m hoping for more to come. That being said, it’s much further along than Adobe Illustrator’s blob tool or Autodesk’s Ink app. Below is a list of what I hope to see.

  • Masking: This was the #1 feature that I missed. I would love to be able to remove parts of the illustration without erasing them completely
  • Auto line correction: I know that some illustrators don’t need this, but I do. Auto smoothing for any pen line work is highly appreciated. (I discovered after posting that you can select a smoother line in the preferences window)
  • Layer blending modes: Like in Painter, Artrage or Photoshop, blending modes are terribly important
  • Better paint blending: This is probably more user error than anything. With less than an hour working in the program, I really liked the feel of it. When I was done, I went back to work in Artrage and painting felt so much easier. I know that vectors have different properties than pixels, so blending will be different. I’m hoping to see more Mischief tutorials on techniques. It may be just as simple as learning a new approach to painting.
  • More brushes and creating custom brushes: I didn’t see a place to create a brush in the software. If there isn’t one, I hope they take a page from Expression. They had a really simple way of creating a brush which worked. It would also be great to have a robust collection of brushes that come with the software like Expression had.

Bottom line: did I purchase?

No. Although I came close, I decided to pass. I did sign up for their email promotions, so if Mischief goes on sale in the near future, I’d definitely reconsider. With all of the programs that I currently use (ArtRage, MyPaint and Krita), It’s hard to justify another addition, especially with two of the three programs I use being free. I’m excited to see where Mischief goes and I would be interested in contributing to their development in the near future.



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