Skip to content

Hello Friend, Let‘s Explore the History and Evolution of Photoshop

Photoshop is one of the most influential software tools ever created. But do you know how it got its start and evolved over the years? Grab a cup of coffee, my friend – we‘re going to dive into the nearly 35 year history of Photoshop. I‘ll share fascinating details you may not know so you can see how this creative powerhouse came to be.

Meet the Inventors Behind Early Photoshop

To start at the very beginning, we need to learn about the creators of Photoshop – Thomas and John Knoll. They were true photography geeks long before envisioning Photoshop.

Thomas Knoll began dabbling in photography and image editing in high school before studying programming at the University of Michigan. His younger brother John got into photography in junior high and also studied at U Mich. While Thomas pursued a PhD in computer vision, John went on to develop visual effects for Industrial Light & Magic (you may have heard of some of their little films like Star Wars!)

With Thomas‘ programming background and John‘s photography and image editing chops, they were the perfect pair to start developing an image editing program.

In 1987, Thomas created an application called Display to show grayscale images on black & white monitors. John saw potential to evolve Display into much more – and thus the first seeds of Photoshop were planted!

From Humble Beginnings as Display

It‘s hard to believe Photoshop started so simply as Display – an image viewer program with just basics like navigation and zoom. But the Knoll brothers had bigger plans.

By 1988, they added features for actual image editing like layers, filters, and retouching tools. Thomas renamed the program ImagePro, then later Photoshop after deciding "ImagePro" sounded too boring!

Version 0.07 was the first appearance of the now iconic name. Codenamed Bond in a nod to 007, this marks the true genesis of Photoshop as we know it today. Just imagine – 0.07 had a mere 10% of capabilities compared to today‘s Photoshop. But it was enough to get Adobe‘s attention…

Photoshop Gets Acquired by Adobe

The Knoll brothers knew they were really onto something with their image editing program. In 1988, Thomas licensed Photoshop through Barneyscan, a scanner manufacturer.

This got the attention of major software company Adobe, who recognized Photoshop‘s potential and wanted it for themselves. So in September 1989, Adobe purchased the license to distribute Photoshop. This was the start of a long partnership between Adobe and the Knolls!

Thomas Knoll began working at Adobe, who planned to further develop and market Photoshop. On February 19, 1990, Adobe officially released version 1.0 exclusively for Macintosh.

Let‘s look at some of the key features added over the next several major Photoshop releases:

Version Release Date Significant New Features
1.0 Feb. 1990 First commercial version
2.0 Jun. 1992 CMYK support, Paths, PDF support
2.5 Nov. 1992 Adjustment layers, 32-bit imaging
3.0 Sept. 1994 Tabbed palettes, Actions, 16-bit support
4.0 Nov. 1996 Adjustment layers, spell check
5.0 May 1998 Extract filter, editable type

Already Photoshop was becoming a must-have tool for digital photographers and publishing professionals. But even bigger innovations were still to come…

The Creative Suite Years – Photoshop Goes Mainstream

In October 2003, the release of Photoshop CS (8.0) marked a major milestone – it was now part of Adobe‘s all new Creative Suite! This brought a consistent user interface across programs like Illustrator, InDesign, and premiere.

Other goodies in Photoshop CS included built-in Camera RAW support, Match Color adjustment, and the super handy Shadow/Highlight correction. Users could now fine-tune images easier than ever before.

I‘d be remiss not to mention two more favorite features added in future Creative Suite releases:

  • CS2 (2005) – Spot Healing Brush and Vanishing Point for editing perspective planes

  • CS3 (2007) – Quick Select and Automatic Layer Alignment

By CS4 in 2008, Photoshop usage had exploded worldwide with over 4 million users! The Preferences Panel made editing settings easier and a new Masks Panel opened up even more advanced compositing techniques.

The Move to Creative Cloud

Clearly, the Creative Suite years cemented Photoshop as THE must-have photo editing tool. But its popularity meant a ton of pirated copies too – Adobe estimated nearly 4 out of every 10 installs were not properly licensed.

To combat this, Adobe made a bold move in 2013 by switching to a subscription model. Now Creative Cloud offered access to download Photoshop and regular updates for a monthly or annual fee.

The CC model also enabled Adobe to deliver new Photoshop features much faster through more frequent updates. Let‘s look at some of the hot new additions over the years:

  • CC 2014 – Focus Mask, improved blur gallery, and Path Blur
  • CC 2015 – Artboards, first iPad version, Glyph and Lines panel
  • CC 2017 – Search help, Content-Aware Crop, brush stroke smoothing
  • CC 2018 – Symmetry mode, Variable fonts, enhanced share for web
  • CC 2019 – Preset packs, share Presentations on Behance
  • CC 2020 – Neural filters, Cloud Documents, Customizable toolbar

Photoshop Today – Fit for Creatives in a Digital World

Which finally brings us to today! The current version as I‘m writing this is Photoshop CC 2022 (version 23). Over 35 years since its humble start as Display, it has become the gold standard in image editing and compositing with thousands of features.

An incredible 500,000+ creative professionals worldwide use Photoshop on a daily basis. To keep such a complex program intuitive, Adobe conducts extensive usability testing with designers and photographers when developing updates.

It‘s amazing to see how Photoshop evolved in sync with groundbreaking creative practices like digital art, social media visuals, digital photography, and so much more. I don‘t think we can imagine our visually focused culture today without Photoshop!

Well my friend, I hope you enjoyed this little trip through Photoshop history as much as I did researching it. Let me know if you want to dive into any other creative software sometime soon. But for now, I‘ll say thanks for learning with me – go pick up that old copy of Photoshop and start creating something amazing!


Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *