A Quick History of Adobe Photoshop & Cool Facts Behind the Living Legend


We all love Photoshop. It has done wonders for all designers, photographers and hobbyists by providing a one-program solution for all the design needs. It is very flexible, easy to use and readily available. Its tools are so perfectly fitting for all the design needs, you’ll never look for another! This is the main reason why we all love this amazing program, right?

But behind all of these quirky features, do we all know where it all began? Do you know the history of Adobe Photoshop? Aren’t we all curious where our favorite software came from? Who made it? Well, this calls for a history lesson.

The tale began in 1987 when PhD student Tom Knoll wrote a graphics application in a Macintosh Plus. The software was used to display gray scale images on a monochrome display. Knoll called it ‘Display.’ We could now consider Display as the unofficial father of our beloved Photoshop.


Photo from Daniel Meadows


John Knoll

Photo by Doodleme

The Knoll Brothers

Thomas Knoll

Photo by Adobe Blogs

Tom’s brother John, who works at Industrial Light and Magic, saw the program. Being a photo-enthusiast, John persuaded his brother to turn it into an image editing software. He eventually finished it after taking a six-month break from his studies. Tom tried to call it ImagePro (image, if this was pursued, we will all say, I ImagePro-ed my photo). Good thing was, the name was already taken for copyright so he opted to call it Photoshop (version 0.07). Tom eventually managed to sell it to a scanner manufacturer.

Photoshop’s Early Versions

On September 1989, everything changed for Photoshop when Adobe bought it. A year after, on February 1, 1990, Photoshop 1.0 was released. It included digital color editing and retouching. It was dedicated for use in high-end platforms such as the SciTex and costs $300 the for basic photo retouching.


Photo from Daniel Meadows

Photoshop improved its features as it was set for version 2.0. And so it was, on June 1, 1990 when Photoshop released its second version adding Paths, CMYK color and the Pen tool. We attribute much of the Pen tool to a guy named Mark Hamburg.


Photo from Daniel Meadows

Version 2.5 was later released in November as it addressed for the first release of the Windows OS. Photoshop also added palettes in this version.

In 1994, Photoshop 3.0 was released. This version now included layers. This saved the arses of a lot of designers who loved to add a more complex feel in their creations. Tom Knoll was the man who made all these possible.


Photo by Photoshop news

It took two years for Photoshop to release version 4.0, which added adjustment layers and macros. Imagine if Photoshop developers haven’t thought of these, we will still take a very long time to put watermark on our photos. They made life easier. Also, 4.0 also started the user interface we all see today.


Photo by Photoshop news

On May 1 1998, version 5.0 came out featuring its newest functions the editable type and the ability to undo actions various times using the History palette. Area selection was also made easier with the addition of the magnetic lasso tool. A year later, 5.5 came out and added the Save for Web feature. (Thanks to 5.5 we can export PNGs!)


Photo by Daniel Meadows

As the new millennium dawned, Photoshop 6.0 came out. Vector shapes were featured in this version. The type tool was also revolutionized by adding a feature where you can directly type text even without defining a bounding box to it. Blending options were also added.


Photo from Graphicssoft

Two years later came 7.0, which introduced a new file browser that allowed the users to easily look through folders. Brushes were also added together with the patch tool.


Photo by Daniel Meadows

Creative Series Era

As Photoshop continued to evolve, it came with cooler and cooler features. This was marketed into a vast pack of software in which Photoshop was the leading brand. It was called the Creative Suite. It basically catered to all design needs, ranging from graphic design to layouting, photography to film.

Photoshop CS (or Photoshop 8.0) was the first version to come out in 2003. It had a Counterfeit Deterrence System (CDS), which reused duplication of paper currency. With the release of CS came also scripts and languages. Grouping of layers was also introduced in this version, making the usage of the program easier.


Photo from Wiki Images

Meanwhile, in 2005, CS2 came out. This version added the red-eye removal tool, and vanishing point tool. Smart objects, which allowed users to blow up or trim down images without it loosing quality, was also introduced.


Photo from Bleeping Computer

With the release of CS3 in 2007, speed was the major change.  CS3 optimized changes with the tools. It made the navigation and usage of Photoshop faster and easier. Adobe Camera Raw and the Quick Selection Tool were also introduced.


Photo from Ruang Software

In 2008, CS4 came out. It was evident that panning and zooming were made easier. Mask and Adjustment panels were also included which made Masking easier.


Photo from Malik

After two years, in 2010, Photoshop released CS5. It added the Puppet Warp Tool, Bristle tips, Mixer Brush and Automatic Lens correction. Masking was improved further.


Photo from Misaki

At last, on May 7, 2012, CS6 came out with a very new and darker UI. It included newer features like autosaving, patch and move tools, blur gallery and vector shapes with dotted or dashed strokes.


Creative Cloud

As you are reading this article, Adobe is already on the process of refining the software. One of the major innovations we have had is the Creative Cloud series. This is a service from the Adobe Systems which gives users access to the company’s design software.

CC works on a software as service model where users can ‘rent’ the usage of the suite for a charge. This tries to eliminate piracy while minimizing the expenditure of companies with their design software.


Photo by Jeff Myer

Photoshop’s CC version includes various changes. With CC, you are granted with more liberty, speed and make images ‘incredibly real’. You can work straight with Behance and get feedback with your projects instantly. This newest installment of Photoshop uses features like Smart Sharpen, which turns low-res images to high-res. It also allows Camera Shake Reductions which allow the users to restore sharpness in motion-blurred shots.


Looking back into Photoshop, we will see how a simple idea can evolve into a useful and impacting tool. Without the Knoll’s display, we would not have our favorite software, right? This just proves that Photoshop, like us web designers, can evolve and be better. We continue to remove our bugs, improve our tools (and sometimes redesign our UI) to become better people. And, hopefully, like Photoshop, we will emerge as successful web designers.



  1. Started with PS-CS3 -> PSCS4 -> PSCS5 ->

    Now am on PS-CS6 Have yet to dabble with CC :/ not sure if am ready for it just yet

  2. Thank you for your informative look back into the history of Photoshop, I remember using some of the early versions and how things have changed now. Many thanks for taking us all back in time.

  3. FHM

    All of use started out using Photoshop, and to be honest we would never switch to anything else. We do use other programs sometimes, but 99% its PS. Cant beat it.

  4. Tim

    Would be fun to see some of the alternate splash screens, as well. Such as Big Electric Cat :)

  5. Rahul

    Wow! Was back in old days for a while, and in fact, I too started learning it with Photoshop 7 :)

  6. Wow…it has been a long journey from the first version of photoshop until the latest CS6. But there is no question, that Photoshop is an amazing software, which has evolved and improved by each version. Thanks for the history. You rock!

  7. Roy

    I met my Photoshop “destiny” in 1989.
    Well I remember, as an intern, being led to a box-like cubicle in one corner of the office, told to fire up another box-like “thing” (a Mac II SE with 16MB of RAM!!!) on the table, and then told to “learn Photoshop”!
    My first task was to Gaussian Blur a scan to remove noise, and I recall frantically digging through the pile of user manuals to discover how to achieve this.
    Since then, Photoshop has come a long way and so have I! I shall certainly bookmark this and use this to remind my student learners how far we have come.

  8. Mary Ihla

    I was working as a designer for a printing company in Minnesota in the ’80s when I was invited to corporate office where the head of the computer department showed me the software he was alpha testing. I was completely blown away by what it could do, and I remember using the clone tool to move a streetlight from one side of the street to the other in a photo. It was a long time ago, but I think it was at least a year before the program came out.

  9. Cesar Lee

    Oh man, this article brings me back in the old days! Thanks for sharing this with us! Cheers!

  10. Igor Ivankovic

    Ah so good to remember the good old days :) Great post and Photoshop is outstanding tool that impacts almost everything these days! Useful info, thanks a lot!

  11. Tim

    A cool roundup. Unfortunately, vector shapes are largely unchanged from when they were introduced. Even in CC the only thing we can do is change the corners on a rectangle. We could use more Fireworks-style shape editing.
    I also feel the icons and splash screens from version CS2 are by far the best. CC’s splash screens and icons are absolutely awful. Thankfully, I only have to see them at work.

  12. Thank you. It was fantastic to see the evolution of the Photoshop launch screen as you followed the releases. I still look forward to this display when I update and launch the first time. I trained on version 2 and my first purchase was version 3 (and I still have my set of floppy discs). The program was such a standard in the creative community that it was a milestone — I was finally a “real” designer.