Oh man, does Mischief ever look amazing. It’s a Mac (or Windows) drawing app which feels like it uses pixels, but stores your strokes as vectors. This means that you can daub away with your favorite pressure-sensitive stylus, but enjoy the infinite zooming and tiny file sizes of vectors. Adobe Ideas does something similar on iOS, but this is a whole lot bigger.
Whilst clearly an early test version (there are no keyboard shortcuts for tools, and no gestures are supported), Mischief is great fun. You can sketch and paint away and then zoom into the tiniest detail of your picture and start over. The existing strokes are still hard-edged and editable (and now huge), and your new strokes are small. If you were an aging hippie prone to using lame old sayings, you could use this app to paint angels on the head of a pin. Or – better – unicorns, which are more likely to exist.
Apps like Photoshop use “raster” images, or pixels. Every pixel on the screen is defined by its color. Thus, if you want a line that’s 5 pixels wide and 1,000 pixels long, fading from red to white, then you need to draw all 5,000 pixels, all of which need to be saved in a file.
To do the same with vectors you essentially write an instruction: start here; go for 1,000 pixels in that direction and stop. Apply a 5-pixel stroke, and fade the color from this value to that value. This toy instruction makes for a much smaller file. An if you want to zoom, or make the picture itself bigger, you just double the numbers. The rendered image (which of course uses the pixels on the screen) will be super smooth, unlike the raster image which has to conjure its new pixels from nowhere.
Blow a vector image up and print it on the side of a building and it will be as smooth and sharp as it was on your iPhone screen. Try that with a JPG.
Mischief looks very promising, and with just a few additions (keyboard shortcuts and gestures, full-screen mode) it’ll be great for artists. Right now there’s no way I’d pay the €100+ asking price, but the 15-day free trial is fun to play around with.