(Re)touching on a quarter-century of Adobe Photoshop

The next person to use the Twirl filter deserves a kicking


Cropping out the competition

Adobe’s Russell Brown says the program truly opened up to artists when David Hockney came in for a training session. Apparently he used Photoshop at the time without an automated feature for such a purpose, to reproduce his famous panoramic Polaroid collages on-screen. “For the first time,” said Russell, “Photoshop was put into the hands of really creative people, and it went on from there.” Or as Steve Guttman put it: “Photoshop democratised image editing and made it available to artists.”

How Top Gear would look if it were presented by women. Artwork by stevecaplin.com for Radio Times

How Top Gear would look if it were presented by women, for Radio Times
Artwork courtesy of Steve Caplin

Indeed, Photoshop is either the principal or the only software package used by cartoon and graphic novel artists around the world today. Sure, other packages popular with artists exist, from Corel Painter to Manga Studio, but nothing can touch Photoshop when it comes to working across multiple transparent layers.

That said, with Photoshop so universally recognised today, even among members of the public who have never actually seen it, it’s forgotten that the program faced stiff competition throughout its early years. Right from the start, Fractal Design’s ColorStudio was the choice product for professionals in specialised markets, while Photoshop looked too friendly in comparison. In the event, this did it no harm whatsoever.

Aldus Photostyler

Aldus Photostyler

By the time Adobe, with Tom Knoll’s help, had rewritten all of the original code to support 16-bit colour images and released for Mac and Windows together (version 2.5), Photoshop was facing a direct competitor in the form of Aldus PhotoStyler. When Photoshop 3.0 came out, a powerful multi-layer program called Live Picture joined the fray. Macromedia then went head to head with Photoshop 4.0 with a highly regarded image editor and processor called xRes.

It was by no means certain that Photoshop would see them all off, not least when Adobe entered into a deliberate process of upsetting its own loyal user base by re-inventing the user interface for version 4.0. The tools and panels looked good, of course, but users found the menus had been “re-organised” (mixed up) and many of the keyboard shortcuts had been “improved” (buggered around with).

Adobe Photoshop history

Hooray for the History panel in version 5.0. Making mistakes is cool

To ease things, Adobe acted like any other US creative corporate: it bought the direct competition and killed it off, in this case Aldus PhotoStyler. Then after allowing the dust to settle following the re-invented interface debacle, it puffed it up again with more fiddling with Photoshop 5.0’s interface, but complaints quickly died down. HSC Software’s Live Picture never lived up to its potential and xRes simply faded away, Macromedia itself eventually being absorbed into Adobe in 2005.

But in the late 1990s, Adobe dealt a master-stroke. It used the core code from Photoshop to release a cut-down package for hobbyist photographers with digital cameras. Initially called Photoshop LE for its first two releases, it was renamed Photoshop Elements in 2001 and was sold cheaply to those few people who hadn’t already found a copy bundled with their digital camera or domestic image scanner. For the world at large, Photoshop was image editing and it already had a copy, so why buy anything else?

Adobe Photoshop 7 – Dabbsy with no eyebrows

A younger, fitter (Reg columnist) Dabbsy finds out with Photoshop 7.0 what he would look like if he shaved off his eyebrows

Photoshop 6.0 and 7.0 saw off the true competition entirely, leaving Windows-only packages such as Paint Shop Pro and Corel Photo-Paint with plenty of admirers but only a tiny fraction of the market.

Returning to the late 1990s, the release of the full Photoshop 5.5 was notable for coming with a secondary image editing program called ImageReady, targeted at designers creating web graphics. ImageReady was slow, clumsy and about as integrated with Photoshop as your home’s gas pipes are with your water pipes, but it produced extremely good online results.

Adobe ImageReady

So what’s different about ImageReady? Check out the button states in the Rollovers panel.

Although ImageReady was eventually given the boot with the release of Creative Suite 3 (CS3) in 2007, it established Photoshop not just as an essential tool for web designers but the one they would go to first for roughing out and slicing up complex site designs.

Next page: Filter trips

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022