20 Years of Adobe Photoshop

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Before it was Photoshop

Knoll Software screen
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Knoll Software screen. © Adobe

The Illustrated History of Photoshop

On February 19, 2010, Adobe Photoshop turned 20 years old. Take a look at the evolution of Photoshop over its first 20 years with this image gallery. Browse product packaging, splash screens, and screen shots while learning about the history of Photoshop and its features.

The software we now know as Photoshop had its beginnings in 1987, when Thomas Knoll, a Ph.D. student, began to write programming code that would display grayscale images on a monochrome display. He did his work on a Macintosh Plus.

Thomas's brother John was working at Industrial Light and Magic at the time, and became interested in the image-processing tools his brother was working on. The two worked together to bring the bits of code and tools together into a unified program, which was originally called "Display." Display became "ImagePro" for a short time, before the Photoshop name we all know and love came about in March of 1988.

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Early Photoshop

Early Photoshop splash screen, icon and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Early Photoshop splash screen, icon and toolbar. This is the only time you see PhotoShop spelled with the capital S in the middle. From version 1.0 on, it was always spelled Photoshop. © Adobe

Thomas and John began presenting Photoshop to several Silicon Valley companies, and in March of 1988, Photoshop version 0.87 was licensed to Barneyscan, and about 200 copies of the program were distributed this way.

At this time, pixel-based image editing software was just coming to the market. Some of the features in the earliest version of Photoshop were:

  • Displaying and saving several file formats
  • Soft edge selections
  • Levels for tone adjustments
  • Color Balance, Hue, and Saturation color adjustments
  • Painting capabilities
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Adobe Photoshop 1.0 Feb. 1990

Adobe Photoshop 1.0 box
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop The first Adobe Photoshop retail packaging. © Adobe

In September of 1988, Photoshop was first demonstrated to Russell Brown, Adobe's Art Director, and Adobe Cofounder John Warnock. Around the same time, the first color PostScript printer was shipped, sparking the desktop publishing era.

By April 1989, the Knoll brothers had worked out a licensing agreement for Adobe to begin distributing Photoshop. Photoshop was in development for 10 months before Photoshop 1.0 was released, exclusively for Macintosh, on February 19, 1990.

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Adobe Photoshop 1.0 Features

Adobe Photoshop 1.0 splash screen, toolbar, and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 1.0 splash screen, toolbar, and icon. © Adobe

Graphic designers quickly adopted Adobe Photoshop, putting it on the path to becoming the industry standard it is today. Features in Adobe Photoshop 1.0 for Mac included:

  • Color correction
  • Image Output optimization
  • Curves
  • Levels
  • Clone tool
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Photoshop 2.0 June 1991

Adobe Photoshop 2.0 splash screen, toolbar, and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 2.0 splash screen, toolbar, and icon. © Adobe

Photoshop 2.0 for Mac debuted in June of 1991, and by then Apple had brought color to the Macintosh interface with System 7. Many Photoshop competitors were coming to market, including PhotoStyler, an image editor acquired by Aldus.

Photoshop 2.0 for Mac codename: Fast Eddy

Key features in Photoshop 2.0:

  • Paths
  • Rasterizer for Adobe Illustrator files
  • CMKY color support
  • Duotones
  • Pen tool
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Photoshop 2.5 - 1992

Adobe Photoshop 2.5 beta splash screen, final splash screen and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 2.5 beta splash screen, final splash screen and toolbar. © Adobe

In April 1992, Microsoft began shipping Windows 3.1, and sold one million copies in its first two months on the market. Photoshop was still a Mac-only program at this time. In February of 1993, Adobe shipped Photoshop 2.5 for Macintosh.

Photoshop 2.5 for Mac codename: Merlin

Photoshop 2.5 added these features:

  • Palettes
  • Support for 16-bit files
Two months later, in April 1993, Adobe brought Photoshop 2.5 to the Windows, IRIX, and Solaris platforms. Image editing began expanding to new markets such as art restoration, law enforcement, photo journalism, and the medical field. Photoshop 2.5 was the first version for Windows users.

Photoshop 2.5 for Windows codename: Brimstone

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Photoshop 3.0 - 1994

Adobe Photoshop 3.0 box, icon, and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 3.0 box, icon, and toolbar. © Adobe

Photoshop 3.0 was released in 1994--for Macintosh in September, and for Windows, IRIX, and Solaris in November. Photoshop was by then entrenched in the industry, and was used in many areas of publishing, filmmaking, advertising and marketing.

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Photoshop 3.0 Features

Adobe Photoshop 3.0 beta and final splash screens.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 3.0 beta and final splash screens. © Adobe

Photoshop 3.0 codename: Taking Tiger Mountain

Photoshop 3.0 brought us layers and tabbed palettes.

In 1994, Adobe acquired Aldus, its main competitor in the graphics and publishing software space. And in 1995, Adobe purchased Photoshop from its creators, Thomas and John Knoll.

In 1995, digital cameras reached the hands of home computer users, which brought a wider interest in image processing to the general public. In 1996, Adobe released PhotoDeluxe 1.0, enabling consumers to work with scanned and digital photos.

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Photoshop 4.0 - 1996

Adobe Photoshop 4.0 box, icon, and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 4.0 box, icon, and toolbar. © Adobe

In November of 1996, Photoshop 4.0 was released simultaneously for Mac and Windows.

Photoshop 4.0 was the first version used by yours truly. In March of 1998, I moved to a new area and was unemployed. During this time I began using the Internet to teach myself Photoshop 4.0, HTML, Web design, and desktop publishing.

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Photoshop 4.0 Features

Adobe Photoshop 4.0 beta and final splash screens.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 4.0 beta and final splash screens. © Adobe

Photoshop 4.0 codename: Big Electric Cat

Photoshop 4.0 introduced adjustment layers and actions, allowing users to perform non-destructive image adjustments and automate many tasks.

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Photoshop 5.0 - 1998

Adobe Photoshop 5.0 beta splash screen.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 5.0 beta splash screen. © Adobe

By 1998, more professional photographers were going digital and facing the prospect of having to learn new tools to stay competitive. In May of 1998, Adobe shipped Photoshop 5.0.

With digital photography becoming more prevalent, consumers wanted to use digital photos in their small businesses. Adobe also shipped PhotoDeluxe Business Edition in May to help business users customize digital photos and use them in business documents.

Photoshop 5.0 codename: Strange Cargo

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Photoshop 5.0 Features

Adobe Photoshop 5.0 splash screen, toolbar and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 5.0 splash screen, toolbar and icon. © Adobe

Photoshop 5.0 brought the following new features:

The dot-com boom was also building up around this time, and The Mining Company (Miningco.com) had recently launched a network of mini-sites led by human experts known as Guides. (The Mining Company later became About.com.)

In July of 1998, Adobe introduced ImageReady 1.0, a stand-alone application for creating and processing web graphics. ImageReady's core features were:

  • Animated GIF creation
  • Image compression and optimization
  • HTML generation
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Photoshop 5.5 - 1999

Adobe Photoshop 5.5 box.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 5.5 box. © Adobe

In early 1999, I was accepted into training as the Guide to Graphics Software for The Mining Company web site, and in late April my site went live. Two weeks later, the Mining Company was re-launched as About.com. The dot-com boom was in full swing, and digital cameras were gaining traction among home users.

In July of 1999, Adobe shipped Photoshop 5.5. This interim release was primarily to address the needs of web designers. Photoshop 5.5 was the first version of Photoshop I reviewed for About.com Graphics Software.

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Photoshop 5.5 Features

Adobe Photoshop 5.5 splash screen and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 5.5 splash screen and toolbar. © Adobe

Photoshop 5.5 was bundled with ImageReady, and also featured:

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Photoshop 6.0 - 2000

Adobe Photoshop 6.0 box and beta splash screen.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 6.0 box and beta splash screen. © Adobe

Photoshop 6.0 came out in October of 2000.

Photoshop 6.0 codename: Venus in Furs

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Photoshop 6.0 Features

Adobe Photoshop 6.0 splash screen, toolbar, and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 6.0 splash screen, toolbar, and icon. © Adobe

Photoshop 6.0 new features:

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Photoshop Elements 1.0 - 2001

Adobe Photoshop Elements 1.0 screen shot.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Elements 1.0 screen shot. © S. Chastain

In 2001, the dot-com bubble burst and About.com cut its network down from nearly 800 sites to 400. Fortunately for me, the Graphics Software site survived the cut.

Digital photography was still booming, and in March of 2001 Adobe introduced Photoshop Elements 1.0, bringing Photoshop's tools to home users and hobbyists who wanted to work with digital photos and web graphics. Photoshop Elements replaced PhotoDeluxe.

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Photoshop 7.0 - 2002

Adobe Photoshop 7.0 icon and box.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 7.0 icon and box. © Adobe

In April of 2002, Photoshop 7.0 was released.

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Photoshop 7.0 aka Liquid Sky

Adobe Photoshop 7.0 beta splash screen.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 7.0 beta splash screen. © Adobe

Photoshop 7.0 codename: Liquid Sky

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Photoshop 7.0 Features

Adobe Photoshop 7.0 splash screen and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop 7.0 splash screen and toolbar. © Adobe

Photoshop 7.0 key features:

  • Healing brush
  • Vector Text
  • New painting engine
  • Photoshop file browser
Professional-level digital cameras were now supporting raw formats, and Adobe Camera Raw 1.0 was introduced as an optional plug-in, in February of 2003. Camera Raw enabled Photoshop users to directly manipulate unprocessed data captured by a digital camera sensor, the digital equivalent of developing a film negative.
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Photoshop Album 1.0 - 2003

Adobe Photoshop Album 1.0 screen shot
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Album 1.0 screen shot. © S. Chastain

Family photographers were now beginning to struggle with their large digital photo collections. To address this need, Adobe created Photoshop Album 1.0 to help consumers organize, search, and share digital photos. Photoshop Album 1.0 was released in February 2003.

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Photoshop CS - 2003

Adobe Photoshop CS box and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS box and icon. © Adobe

In October of 2003, Adobe launched the first Creative Suite package which bundled Photoshop CS with Adobe's other creative applications such as Illustrator and InDesign.

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Photoshop CS aka DarkMatter

Adobe Photoshop CS beta splash screen.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS beta splash screen. © Adobe

Photoshop CS (8.0) codename: DarkMatter

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Photoshop CS Features

Adobe Photoshop CS splash screen and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS splash screen and toolbar. © Adobe

Photoshop CS (8.0) key features:

  • Shadow/Highlight adjustment
  • Match Color command
  • Lens Blur filter
  • Real-time histogram
  • Improved Slice tool
  • Hierarchical layer groups
  • PhotoMerge
  • Custom keyboard shortcuts
  • The Filter Gallery
  • Text on a path
  • Product activation (copy protection)
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Photoshop CS2 - 2005

Adobe Photoshop CS2 box, icon, and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS2 box, icon, and toolbar. © Adobe

Adobe Photoshop CS2 was shipped in April of 2005. Around the same time, Adobe Acquired Macromedia, a major competitor in the graphics software industry.

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Photoshop CS2 Features

Adobe Photoshop CS2 beta and final splash screens.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS2 beta and final splash screens. © Adobe

Photoshop CS2 (9.0) codename: Space Monkey

Photoshop CS2 (9.0) key features:

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Photoshop CS3 Public Beta - 2006

Adobe Photoshop CS3
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS3 "Red Pill" beta splash screen. © Adobe

On December 15, 2006, Adobe announced the first ever public beta of Photoshop with Photoshop CS3.

Photoshop CS3 (10.0) codename: Red Pill

In February of 2007, Adobe introduced Photoshop Lightroom, bringing advanced image management and post processing to serious amateur and professional photographers.

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Photoshop CS3 - 2007

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Standard and Extended version boxes.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS3 Standard and Extended version boxes. © Adobe

In March of 2007, Adobe announced that Photoshop CS3 would be available in Standard and Extended editions, and in April Photoshop CS3 was shipped along with Creative Suite 3. The Extended version of Photoshop included everything in Photoshop CS3, plus specialized technical and scientific tools for 3D, motion graphics, image measurement and analysis.

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Photoshop CS3 Features

Adobe Photoshop CS3 splash screen, toolbar, and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS3 splash screen, toolbar, and icon. © Adobe

Features in Photoshop CS3 (10.0):

  • Native support for Intel-based Macintosh
  • User-interface improvements
  • Smart Filters
  • Quick Selection tool
  • Refine Edge tool
  • Automatic layer alignment and blending
  • Black and White adjustment
  • Improved print window
Features in Photoshop CS3 (10.0) Extended:
  • 3D visualization and texture editing
  • MATLAB integration
  • Measurement and counting tools
  • DICOM format support
  • Motion Graphics and video LAYERS
  • Movie paint
  • Vanishing point with 3D support
  • Image stack processing
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Photoshop Express and Lightroom - 2008

Adobe Photoshop Express Beta screen shot.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Express Beta screen shot. © S. Chastain

In March of 2008, Adobe launched a public beta of Photoshop Express, a web-based online photo service for storing, sorting, editing, and showing off digital photos. Photoshop Express replaced Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition.

Then, in July of 2008, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 shipped, with Photoshop CS3 integration.

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Photoshop CS4 - 2008

Adobe Photoshop CS box and icon.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS box and icon. © Adobe

In October of 2008, Adobe shipped Photoshop CS4.

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Photoshop CS4 aka Stonehenge

Adobe Photoshop CS4 beta splash screen.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS4 beta splash screen. © Adobe

Photoshop CS4 (11.0) codename: Stonehenge

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Photoshop CS4 Features

Adobe Photoshop CS4 splash screen and toolbar.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop CS4 splash screen and toolbar. © Adobe

Features in Photoshop CS4 (11.0):

  • Tabbed interface
  • Adjustments panel
  • Masks panel
  • OpenGL graphics card acceleration enabling smoother panning and zooming, and fluid canvas rotation
  • Content aware scaling
  • 64-bit Windows version
Features in Photoshop CS4 (11.0) Extended:
  • Direct editing of 3D objects
  • Improved motion graphics
  • Volume rendering
  • Easier data collection and analysis
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Photoshop Elements 8 - 2009

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 box and Photoshop.com Mobile iPhone App.
20 Years of Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 box and Photoshop.com Mobile iPhone App. © Adobe, S. Chastain

2009 brought us Photoshop Elements 8 in September, Photoshop.com Mobile for iPhone in October, and Photoshop.com Mobile for Android in November. What's in store for Photoshop next? I don't know, but I don't think we'll have to wait long to find out!