A Look Through The Years - Adobe Photoshop Turns 25

Today marks a special day for the beloved Adobe Photoshop, as today is it's 25th birthday. Even at only 25 years old, Photoshop has had a number of facelifts. From it's initial release, Photoshop was revolutionary in it's tools, and still remains to be the best tool for photographers today. So lets take a look at all the changes this iconic software has seen over these last twenty five years.

For me personally, twenty-five years is mind boggling. With the first digital SLR camera being credited to the Minolta RD-175 in 1995, Adobe has managed to predate that with Photoshop being introduced in 1990. Over those years, we've gained layers in 1994, actions in 1996, healing brushes in 2002 and Content Aware fill in 2010. Among those features added over the years, many of them have become a necessity within our own workflow, and tools adapted and converted to fit the needs within competitor's software. But over those twenty five years, Adobe Photoshop got a lot more than just a few tools here and there, so lets take a look at some of the visual changes the software has experienced in this quarter of a century.

The Visual Changes of Photoshop

A Brief History of Photoshop

Photoshop began with Thomas Knoll is 1987, and with his pixel imaging program entitled Display. His Display software was designed to showcase gray scale images on a black-and-white monitor, and he quickly knew that there was a future for his project. After partnering with his brother, John Knoll, Thomas and John began adding features to Display that allowed it to process digital image files. Eventually, this caught the attention of Adobe as well as some early adapters to the industry, and the software was licensed and renamed to Photoshop in 1989. In 1990, the software was then finalized, and began shipping.

Over the next 25 years, PHotoshop would adapt the digital photography era, and become the most successful tool for photographers everywhere. As competing software would spring up and fade out, PHotoshop would continue to innovate and be part of the leading software in terms of technology and tools available.

[All Images by Doug Menuez/Stanford University Libraries/Contour by Getty]


To get a detailed breakdown of the timeline of Adobe Photoshop, check out this image they put together to celebrate these last 25 years.


So happy 25th birthday, Adobe Photoshop. Feel free to share your own personal history with Photoshop in the comments below.

Zach Sutton's picture

Zach Sutton is an award-winning and internationally published commercial and headshot photographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His work highlights environmental portraiture, blending landscapes and scenes with portrait photography. Zach writes for various publications on the topic of photography and retouching.

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Knoll developed PS while attending the University of Michigan, which happened to coincide with my own time there as a student. A couple of years later, I started using PS 2.0.
Still using it (I've upgraded a couple of times)!

I started with Photoshop with version 2.5.1. I didn't really get serious with until version 3, which brought the advent of layers in order to compete with another editor at the time that was usurping it (the name escapes me). Layers was probably the single most important evolution of editing programs.

Yah! Learned version 2.5 in high school. I remember we couldn't work with files larger than 640x480 as the computers would throw out the "out of memory" dialog.

Good old days. NOT!


I used Photoshop since 1990 and am proud to be a part of the beta testers for the Windows 2.5. Back then, the inclusion of a Quick Mask was an incredible addition, pre-layers.