Adobe Explains It All: Photoshop

_This is the first in a series of stories to simply describe some of Adobe’s key offerings.

When it comes to using the right Adobe software for your projects, there are so many options to choose from, spanning After Effects to EchoSign, Acrobat to Muse. There’s Test and Target, Analytics, and Campaign, too. The solution that’s right for you will, of course, depend on what you’re looking to achieve, so we’ve created this new series to help explain some of our key offerings.

We’re kicking off with Adobe Photoshop, the graphic design, illustration, and photo editing software that turned 25 years old this month (join the party here). Senior Product Manager Zorana Gee gives us the scoop., when was Adobe Photoshop first created?

Zorana Gee

Photoshop was developed in 1988 by the Knoll brothers, and version 1.0 was released by Adobe to the public on February 19, 1990. Thomas Knoll still works with us, and John Knoll still works at Industrial Light & Magic, where he became the first person to start using the brothers’ new design software, while it was still in development, for the James Cameron movie The Abyss.

Check out a recent interview we posted featuring Thomas for the 25th anniversary of Photoshop.

Who is it for?

Photoshop has a huge variety of customers, including both professional and hobbyists. Its primary user base, though, consists of professional designers and professional photographers, followed by video editors and special effects artists. But there are also plenty of professionals who need to do simple photo manipulations in countless other lines of work, ranging from the medical field to NASA, and Photoshop serves their needs every day as well. Any image that you see publicly displayed in the world has probably been touched by Photoshop at some point.

Where is it used the most?

As you might expect, it’s used most extensively in the design world: advertising, graphic design, traditional press designers, web design, product design, video game design, user-experience design, and so on. It’s also used heavily by photographers for photo retouching, and in the film industry for various things like concept art, matte paintings, storyboarding, or color manipulations—anything that’s not moving and used in a film’s special effects or design.

What are some of the other products in the Photoshop family?

There are now quite a few. For the desktop, there’s Photoshop, of course, and Photoshop Lightroom, which is mainly for professional photographers, although photographers needing more advanced tools often use the two programs together. And then there’s Photoshop Elements, which is for home users who don’t need all of the complexity of the full-featured software. But we’ve also recently released a number of mobile apps for the iPad and iPhone, as well as Android devices, including Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Sketch, Photoshop Express, Photoshop Touch, and Lightroom mobile. We call them companion apps. They’re for both professional and consumer use, can sync with users’ Creative Cloud profiles, and provide some pretty unique capabilities that enhance the Photoshop experience.

Why do designers choose to use Photoshop over other Adobe design programs like Illustrator?

Well, designers are often split between Photoshop and Illustrator, and many tend to switch between the two to complete a project. People will use Illustrator for icon designs, logos, or similar jobs best suited to scalable vector graphics—including comic-book illustrations—and then they’ll bring those vectors into Photoshop to do their final comps. It really depends on what they learned when they were in school and what they’re comfortable with, and what’s required for the task at hand. Traditionally, we might have described Photoshop as the bitmapimage editing tool and Illustrator as the vector-image editing tool, but that’s really shifted quite a bit as the capabilities of both applications have grown.

Finally, if you could speculate a bit, how would the world be different if Photoshop had never existed?

Just imagine how things were back in the 1980s, and how limited design options were. Today design is everything, and well-designed experiences are everything—critical to business, critical to the user experience, and critical to brands—and that’s largely thanks to Photoshop. I think that just as Adobe PDFs and Acrobat were critical in the print publishing revolution, Photoshop has been an essential component of the design revolution over the past two decades. Also, without it, the world would be lacking a quite common and popular verb: “to Photoshop” something. Nobody would understand what it means to say “That’s been Photoshopped,” and more significantly, we wouldn’t have the experience of being able to easily create on a computer any image that’s in our mind. Fundamentally, without Photoshop, people would be missing an important vehicle for expressing their creative visions.