The Foundry, the UK-based developer of high-end VFX and postproduction technology, has branched out into the creative consumer graphics market with the acquisition of Made With Mischief and its flagship product, Mischief, a pen-based sketching application for Mac and Windows.

Made With Mischief, founded by Sarah Frisken, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of The Foundry. The company will be headquartered in Boston, with team members located in Boston, London and Shanghai.

Mischief is powered by a patented shape representation, known as Adaptively Sampled Distance Fields (ADFs), co-invented by Frisken. The Foundry claimed ADFs have several advantages for creative applications: they provide high-quality stroke rendering; they use hardware-based rendering so drawing is extremely responsive; they are very compact, resulting in small file sizes; they can be scaled without introducing pixelation artifacts; and they can accurately represent much richer and more complex shapes than traditional vector-based stroke representations.

Users can purchase the full version of Mischief on the Mac App Store and the Mischief online store for $25.00. The full version of Mischief includes a full colour panel with customisable colour swatches, customisable brushes and Hotkeys, and a selection of background papers and colours, all on Mischief's infinite canvas.

Sarah Frisken, who takes on the role of Chief Scientist, said the acquisition of Made With Mischief by The Foundry enabled her to retain her core vision of providing high-quality software tools for wide range of artists and to preserve its accessible price point, while bringing future versions of the platform to an even broader audience.

Christopher Kenessey, chief sales and marketing manager for The Foundry and new president of Made With Mischief, said that rather than a traditional acquisition by The Foundry, the subsidiary was going to function like a standalone entity.

"We've always had ambitions as a company to address a much broader creative audience," explained Kenessey. "When we came across Sarah and brand and ethos she had created around Mischief, it became clear to us right away that if we wanted to create a brand for creative consumers, then this was the perfect seed to build that brand around."

"It's not just a part of The Foundry, because it's a very different approach - trying to have a toolset that's going out to such a large audience," Kenessey added. "Although there will be cross-pollination and sharing of tech with The Foundry, we really want to focus on those creative consumers that are out there."

Kenessey described sketching on Mischief's infinite canvas as being like using the holographic displays in Minority Report: "Using the Adaptively Sampled Distance Fields, it's got an amazing feel, which is really different to any other application out there."

"From a technology standpoint we've managed to create a much simpler interface, one that's very clean," added Kenessey. "The goal is for somebody to download it, look at it and just start drawing within a matter of seconds without too much fuss."

Chris Cheung, formerly Autodesk product manager for Sketchbook Pro, is also on the new team, with the admirable job title of 'Head of Mischief'. Cheung will work closely with Sarah Frisken to drive the conceptualisation, development and commercialisation of digital artistic solutions.

"People use a variety of products, like Photoshop, Sketchbook, ArtRage, but there was this really important conceptual stage, that all artists use, which was missing from The Foundry portfolio" said Cheung. "We've been seeing artists using the borderless quality of the drawing space in Mischief in a very creative way."

"Drawing is something that bridges beyond high-end professionals," he continued. "So while being able to provide a drawing tool really starts with those professonals, it also touches on students, and also children. With Mischief we hope to see a lot of Primary Schools using it, to present kids with a very simple interface but also a very natural drawing experience."

"This is really the right technology for The Foundry to adopt, and to connect with creativity on a broad scale with the Made with Mischief brand," said Cheung. "And that bridges to the amazing things we do on The Foundry side. There are teams that have been looking at Adaptively Sampled Distance Fields, how to adapt the technology for different purposes and potentially for different applications.

"Not only is the technology amenable to GPU rendering, it provides amazing anti-aliasing," he explained. "It's very responsive and can write giant amounts of data in very small file sizes. We could share a file that could be rendered out at any resolution and that would be smaller than some digital camera output. This technology allows the best of both worlds- the resolution independence of a vector graphics application with the feel of a raster painting engine that creatives are accustomed to. The new shape representation is really the technology piece that puts Mischief beyond any other sketching or drawing apps."

Mischief is available today for the Mac - it'll be the first product from The Foundry on the App Store - and Windows, but Cheung also hinted about activity around mobile devices and touchscreens.

A free version is also available on the App Store. Mischief-Free, a limited-feature edition, includes basic brushes, colours and a full infinite canvas experience.

"We want to give a little bit of Mischief to everybody," said Cheung.