Wow.. It’s been an incredibly wild ride. We knew we had something special but we had no idea it would be quite like this. The work created by Photoshop’s global community of users has been no less than extraordinary... and hilarious....and thoughtful.. and breathtaking.... I could go on and on but I'd rather talk to you. Happy Anniversary Photoshop!

PROOF (not Photoshopped or Illustrated):

So let's begin… Ask Me Anything. Victoria will be assisting me today via phone.

Update Thanks all the people asking questions, and it's been a lot of fun doing this.

To wrap things up, here is "Jennifer in Paradise:"

Comments: 404 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

beernerd138 karma

Are you familiar with Photoshop battles? Have you ever done one?

Thomas_Knoll101 karma

I have heard of them. I've never done one. Or looked very closely at them (sorry!).

hurtsdonut_95 karma

You should check them out to see the beast you unleashed.

Thomas_Knoll57 karma

I will check them out!

greenyellowbird51 karma

I predict that your photo will be on there shortly.

Thomas_Knoll40 karma

I can't wait.

Larsson69110 karma

What is your response to all the people pirating your products?

Thomas_Knoll170 karma

Especially nowadays, with the Photoshop photography program where you can subscribe for $10 a month to both Photoshop and Lightroom, you are being very cheap if you pirate it.

sharltocopes74 karma

Hey, Thomas, why is roughly eighty percent of my time in photoshop spent initializing the goddamn type tool?

uberflieger78 karma

because you have too many fonts. Delete some or get a good font manager programm ;) all these fonts also slow down other programms ;)

Thomas_Knoll52 karma


tanketom69 karma

Do you ever think about all the incredibly weird, or even harmful, things people have done with Photoshop?

Thomas_Knoll273 karma

Well, it was a tool that had sort of immense versatility. And even from the very early days, people were doing things that I never imagined would even be possible. So it's sort of like asking a manufacturer of ink and paper "Can you imagine all the things people would write, or draw?"

Thomas_Knoll68 karma

I've actually seen that store, myself. I'm not in charge of that, so...

courtiebabe42063 karma

So... what led to the idea of Photoshop? I'm really hoping it's some funny or silly story you can share with us.

Thomas_Knoll130 karma

Well, it sort of happened because of procrastination.

I was working on my PhD, and I got to the point of having to write my thesis, and I really hated doing that, so I wrote Photoshop instead.

It was my brother's idea to try and sell it. So he asked if he could try and shop it around to various companies. So he traveled around doing demos, and the first "bundle deal" that we did with Photoshop was with a scanner company called BarneyScan. And they bundled a beta version of Photoshop under the name "BarneyScan XP." And for a while, that was the only way to purchase Photoshop, so some people purchased the scanner just to get Photoshop. This was in 1988, the bundle happened. I started writing Photoshop in 1987, and it had gotten to be that state by 1988.

And we had always intended to find a publisher to publish it as a stand-alone piece of software, and my brother was doing demos all during this time, and the BarneyScan deal was noncompetitive, we still had the rights to sell it to a publisher, so we found Adobe and reached a handshake agreement in 1988. The final paperwork was signed in 1989.

And they actually shipped it in 1990.

And at that point, BarneyScan had to bundle the real Photoshop, rather than the beta version they had, under the name Photoshop.

We don't have perfect records going back to this time, because we didn't realize how important this was going to be, but our best estimate for the shipping date for Photoshop 1.0 was February 19, 1990.

So today is the exact 25th anniversary, from what we can tell.

courtiebabe42062 karma

I was working on my PhD, and I got to the point of having to write my thesis, and I really hated doing that, so I wrote Photoshop instead.

The things we do instead of doing the things we are supposed to! This is a pretty cool story, thanks for sharing!

Had you written any other programs before that? Oh! And, did you actually get the PhD, and in what?

Thomas_Knoll67 karma


I started working as a professional computer programmer when I was in 11th grade. And I worked on writing smart terminal software for a company called MDSI. And I worked half-time during the school years and full time during the summers, all the way through the rest of high school and through undergraduate college.

No, I never finished my PhD.

NotSureHowThingsWork55 karma

Hey Thomas,

Can you make this manatee look like he's playing the piano? Whenever I see one, I always think "hey, that manatee looks like Ray Charles, or Adrien Brody" but no one has any idea what I'm talking about.

They think I'm talking about the blubber. But it's really the posture.

Thomas_Knoll28 karma

I don't know what you're talking about either.

NonsenseFactory53 karma

Will photoshop come to linux? Pleaaaaaaase!?

Thomas_Knoll175 karma

Uh...we've thought about this, many times, and the issue here is that most people who use Linux are not actually used to paying for software.

Thomas_Knoll69 karma

Maybe someday! We have ported the code onto some Android devices, which is essentially Linux based, so it is appearing via that method on Linux.

NonsenseFactory29 karma

As a Web developer where all of our designers use photoshop, it's the only piece of software that has me tied to either windows or Mac. How far along are you with that browser based Ps I heard about?

Thomas_Knoll17 karma

I believe you have to be a Creative Cloud member and you have to be an Education Customer in North America to use it.

kylethewild45 karma

What do you think about the way that photoshop is being used in the media nowadays?

Did you ever think that the digital alterations made to bodies in photographs would be used in such a harmful way? 

Thomas_Knoll103 karma

Well, when I was first writing Photoshop, it was intended as a tool for graphic artists and advertising photographers and press photographers. And a lot of what they did was advertising photography, which is by its nature deceptive. So that was certainly an expected use. It was also used by news organizations, which ideally should NOT be deceptive. Like any tool - a tool can be abused, or used properly. So it's all about the ethics of the user, rather than the goodness or badness of the tool itself.

Frisco_kid_41530 karma

Have you ever swam in all of your money like Scrooge McDuck? Please say yes.

Thomas_Knoll44 karma


All my money is digital. It's hard to do.

MarvinParanoidDroid26 karma

Hi, Mr. Knoll! It's great to finally put a face to the name that pops up on the splash screen every time Photoshop starts!

I have a few questions for you:

  1. Are you still involved in the upkeep and upgrades of the program as it is now?
  2. What is your favorite feature in the newest versions?
  3. What is the most creative use of Photoshop you have seen for large audiences?


Thomas_Knoll30 karma

1.) I've been working, for the last 12 years, on the Camera Raw plug-in to Photoshop, and I'm an active engineer on that product.

2.) The feature - it's probably the version before this most recent one, because we don't really have as major a release model now with subscription - but finally getting Camera Raw as a filter into Photoshop.

3.) One of the first major uses people saw in their daily life was when they were making movies, they used to make these huge paintings, called Matte Paintings, that they would use as the background for scenes, putting behind actors. And fairly rapidly in the early 90s, that whole industry switched over to Photoshop to create Matte Paintings.

RandyFord25 karma

Did you expect your product to explode like this? And did you create it for Adobe, or did Adobe buy it off you?

Thomas_Knoll43 karma

It was created for my own personal pleasure, and my brother's pleasure. So it was not until several months into development that my brother thought he could sell it as a commercial product.

Dok_Watson21 karma

To me, 1988 was a long time ago (before I was born!). I'm a programmer myself and have an interest in the history of programming. So I want to ask what programming languages did you use to create version 1.0 and what platforms did you support?

Thomas_Knoll23 karma

It was a Macintosh application at the time. And it was written approximately 90% in Object Pascal, and the remaining 10% in Motorola 68,000 Assembly Code.

Thomas_Knoll17 karma

We translated everything into C++ for version 2.5 when we did the port to Windows, because Windows did not have an Object Pascal compositor.

abitbolgeorges21 karma

Do you master all aspects of photoshop ?

Thomas_Knoll44 karma

No. There are currently fairly large parts of the program which I have barely used at all. For example, in my personal work, I almost never use the 3D features of Photoshop.

SeuleRome18 karma

Do you have a favourite funny photoshopped picture? Also can you Generally tell yourself when a picture has been created with your program?

Thomas_Knoll27 karma

Not really a favorite funny Photoshopped picture? The one that sticks in my mind is the photograph the Iranians posted of their missile launch, where they photoshopped in an extra missile. I don't really know if that's a funny photograph or not.

And it depends on how well it's done. If it's done really well, no. Sometimes people make mistakes, and they do things that are obviously wrong, but unless I actually examine the file myself, and run specific tools on it, often I can't tell.

air_c17 karma

How do you respond to criticism of the usability of Photoshop? Talking about issues like new user learning curve, feature bloat, findability of features. How do you feel about the tradeoff between satisfying power users and making it easier for new users to learn the software? Do you think the program is designed well in terms of organization and visibility of the most-used features? Is there anything you'd change to make the program more usable? (this seems like a lot of questions but is mostly clarification of the initial question lol)

Thomas_Knoll18 karma


One of the features of Photoshop is that it is very powerful, and anything you can imagine doing, there's probably some way of doing it.

Which is also a downside for many users, because there are probably 10 ways of doing anything you imagine!

So when I was working on the feature set for Camera Raw and the develop module of Lightroom, we looked at all the things that people wanted to do to photographs, and tried to only allow the best method of doing a specific action. So I would recommend that new users start in Adobe Lightroom, and learn that feature-set, because it guides you to what kind of operations you want to do on images, and only use Photoshop when you find something in Lightroom that you can't do that you wanna do.

rhigosrebel14 karma

Hey there. Former pirater of Photoshop now I have creative cloud and never looked back. My questions are. Did you think the previous price tag was worth the money? And do you get Photoshop for free as you co-founded it?

Thomas_Knoll17 karma

Well, as an Adobe employee, I don't actually have to pay for it (to answer that question). And I though the pricing model for the Creative Cloud, with all the Adobe Applications, was actually very fair. I had my concerns about the pricing model for Photoshop and Lightroom, which I feel Adobe has resolved very well with their photography program. In the US, it's $10 a month (or $9.99 in marketingspeak).

magnumblue13 karma

Photoshop or Sketch for UI design?

Thomas_Knoll19 karma

Well, I use programming tools so that when I get down to detailed design of user interfaces, I'm actually writing the code that generates the user interface directly, rather than creating an image and having to go back and write code to create that interface. That's mostly because I'm a computer programmer rather than an interface designer, so it's easier for me to use the tools directly rather than draw an image and try to replicate that.

jzeus2811 karma

What is the best way to photoshop without people knowing you photoshopped??

Thomas_Knoll16 karma

Classes and practice, basically.

EpicNarwhals11 karma

Hi Thomas, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. I'm a huge fan of photoshop and have used it since is pre-creative suite days.

As a developer you probably don't have much say in the pricing policies, but are you seeing any effects of the creative suite following a subscription based model instead of the traditional one? For example building up core users while alienating casual users? For someone to now pay monthly, I imagine they must be a more dedicated user to be using it every month.

Or is it having the opposite effect, where a casual user does not feel afraid to try the product for a few months without paying the full initial cost as before?

Thomas_Knoll4 karma

Well, Adobe's goal for going to the subscription model was to increase the number of users by reducing the barrier to entry. So if someone is considering whether the Adobe Software suite is the right thing for them, they can simply try it for a year, without investing thousands of dollars. And I'm very happy for the pricing for the photography bundle in particular, where you can get Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom Mobile for less than $10 a month.

KennyFM10 karma

If you were stuck on a desert island what thee items/people would you want to bring?

Thomas_Knoll16 karma

My significant other, something to connect to the internet, and a laptop, probably!

AuntieMeme10 karma

Do you think "Photoshopped" has become a dirty word, in our culture?

Thomas_Knoll12 karma

It's become a word that means "photo manipulation," and people decry images that make celebrities look better than possible in reality, but it's also true that if you take a photograph of somebody, a lot of people want that kind of thing done to them too!

Thomas_Knoll7 karma

But in general, Photoshop is a tool, and any tool can be used properly for good, or abused for bad.

robmacgar10 karma

What tool or feature are you most proud of and what inspired you to create it?

Thomas_Knoll27 karma

The thing in version 1 of Photoshop that I'm most proud of having done is the Levels adjustment dialogue. Which was basically invented by me, I don't think there were any analogues in any software that had the same kind of interface. My favorite feature of Photoshop, over the years, was when we added Layer Support in version 3.

Wackamole5610 karma

Why did you name a photo-editing/photo manipulating program, 'PhotoShop'? Im interested in the name origin.

Thomas_Knoll24 karma

The very first program that would evolve into Photoshop had fairly limited ability to change images. It could mostly read images from multiple file formats, display them at multiple screen resolutions, and then write them out in various file formats. So this first version was called "Display."

And then as John and I added image processing features to Photoshop, we changed the name we were calling it to "ImagePro," and then we heard of an existing application called "ImagePro," so we called it "PhotoLab." And then we heard of ANOTHER existing application called "PhotoLab."

So then we came up with Photoshop as the code name. And all this time, we were expecting the publisher we found to do market research and come up with a real name. So Adobe did their market research, and called it Photoshop.

Joeykennedy9 karma

Where do you see the program going in the coming years? Do you have any game changing features in the works?

Thomas_Knoll12 karma

I can't tell you yet, but they'll be exciting!

Broketographer9 karma

What's the most amazing improvement to PS since it's creation in your opinion? I'm always impressed by the content aware fill intelligence. Saves a lot of time. Thanks for the AMA.

Thomas_Knoll26 karma

Content Aware Fill is the technology in Photoshop that amazed ME the most, because I don't really know how it works under the hood myself.

cut_paper6 karma

how do you feel about the term 'Photoshop' entering the American lexicon as a verb for any sort of photo manipulation?

Thomas_Knoll29 karma

Well, as long as people still know about the real Adobe Photoshop, and are aware that Adobe makes a program called Photoshop, and it's the real thing, I'm actually kind of happy that they use "Photoshop" as a verb.

Adobe Legal is probably less happy.

jchabotte6 karma

Can YOU tell by the pixels?

Thomas_Knoll6 karma

Another similar question - with my native eye, looking at an image, if it's done very well, no. It's possible to fool an observer, even a careful observer. There are forensic tools that Adobe has experimented with where we can observe the non-visible portions of the images to look for evidence of retouching. For example, you can look for cloning fairly easily, looking for similar patterns of pixels.

Universu5 karma

What is your favorite book?

Thomas_Knoll14 karma

To be honest, I don't read any Photoshop book. Is this a book in general?

My favorite book is "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Ralph Leighton and Richard Feynman.

montlaker5 karma

Thomas, do you remember the Center for Creative Imaging in Maine? I can't recall if you ever visited. We had Photoshop on 100 Macs there back in 1991, and taught it via classes to artists and others. (We had an unlimited license copy wired to a secret file direct from Adobe.) Photoshop to me seems so fundamentally the same despite interface changes and advances over that period of time: everything I could do in 1991 is just better, faster, more sophisticated now. Are you concerned about the current direction of the software or its evolution?

Thomas_Knoll6 karma

Well, Photoshop has been on the market for 25 years, and it started as a market leader in its category, and it still is a market leader in its category, and there are very few programs that can say that. In fact, when Photoshop 1.0 was written, personal computers were less than 25 years old. And over the 25 years of Photoshop, computers have evolved tremendously in their processing capability, and the hardware people are using has changed dramatically over that time period. And it's been evolving constantly, to adapt to changes in hardware and changes in market requirements. It will change, obviously, and continue to evolve, and we have a number of initiatives to improve it in many different aspects. But I believe it can evolve to meet future demands also.

donduck25 karma

Did you ever think it would be used beyond photography the way it has? Specifically to design websites and drive the visual aspect of what the World Wide Web became?

Thomas_Knoll7 karma

Well, we wrote version 1 of Photoshop before the web even existed. So I certainly had not had that particular application in mind when we were writing Photoshop.

NormaHollywood5 karma

There are many brain groupies out there. Do you have to beat the ladies off with a stick or do you indulge?

Thomas_Knoll5 karma

I'm spoken for at the moment, so...

KC-NL5 karma

What do you think of the CC system? Now we pay money for a certain time, but when we had CS, we had the possibility to buy it for one single time, for the rest of the time. Do you like the system? And is there a reason why we have to use the new system?

Thomas_Knoll7 karma

Over time, there was no such thing as a perpetual copy of Photoshop, because computer hardware changed, and operating systems changed, to the point where very old software stopped running because of operating changes. So essentially, you're always on a subscription program, it's just a matter of the schedule for that.

As a computer programmer working on these products, the subscription model changed the incentives for what features we work on. Now the goal of the programmer is to make changes and features that make it easier to use and keep our existing customers happy, and we can work on those features, and we don't have to spend as much time on flashy features that look good in demo, but may not be as useful in real life.

KC-NL5 karma

Hello Thomas. What do you like for breakfast, lunch and diner?

Thomas_Knoll7 karma


For breakfast, probably my favorite breakfast is something called a "Balance Bowl" from Cafe Vita in Pacific Palisades.

For lunch, nothing as regular as that. I have a variety of things for lunch.

For dinner, been trying recently to eat lots of vegetables.

thatdudeinbk4 karma

Having been so close to the product for so many years do you ever get tired of hearing about it? Maybe think, "ehh I'm going to go develop something completely different."

Thomas_Knoll10 karma

About 12 years ago, I stopped working on the main Photoshop application, and started working on the Camera Raw plug-in to Photoshop. Which, over this time period, has acquired more and more image processing features by itself. So, in a way, my goal is to write the new version of Photoshop inside Camera Raw, and turn Photoshop into a plug-in for Camera Raw. Which I sort of achieved in Lightroom, in that for my own images, 80% of them are only processed in Lightroom, and only 20% of them also include Photoshop processing.

mattyroze4 karma

Does the 3rd Knoll brother wish he worked with you 2 Photoshop makers on the original program? Tell the truth - how jealous is he?

Thomas_Knoll7 karma

Never really his thing. He works on designing point-of-purchase displays in supermarkets and drugstores. So when you walk into a supermarket, and you see this thing blocking the aisle, you can blame him. And he probably does use Photoshop for some things.

drinkywinky4 karma

What are some non computer hobbies you have?

Thomas_Knoll5 karma

Photography (which is related to Photoshop pretty directly). I also enjoy flying airplanes, and I've been doing that since flying gliders in college, and then later on. And I enjoy playing golf, and riding bicycles.

uberflieger3 karma

How much RAM would I need to make Photoshop work on a purely RAM Scratch Disk?

Thomas_Knoll4 karma

Depends on how big your images are.

BlondishMist7483 karma

When you were finished with the first version of Photoshop did you ever imagine people would make things like Kim Jong Un riding a pug ?

Also I would like to thank you and all those nice people at Adobe, I have recently subscribed to full on Creative Cloud with everything included and I got to say... THANK YOU for such a great product.

Thomas_Knoll1 karma

Well, you're welcome! And John was doing demos of pre-version 1 of Photoshop copy-pasting and duplicating people in images, so that kind of thing was expected already.

datums3 karma

How did your parents help to make you into such a successful person? Did they push you toward a conventional career, or did they encourage you to dream big?

Thomas_Knoll4 karma

They were always very supportive of all 3 Knoll brothers, encouraging us to do what we wanted to do in life. I sort of backed into Photoshop because of procrastination (as I said earlier). It took me a while to figure out exactly what i wanted to do. I figured I would be an amateur computer programmer and find something "real" to do.

TheEarlOfZinger3 karma

I'm a graphic designer of 15 years and have been using photoshop since 1998 or so, thankyou for creating and developing such a versatile tool for us all to use (and visualise what is in our sometimes idiotic clients heads).

Could we possibly see any of your own photoshop work?

Thomas_Knoll2 karma

I'll give you a website here:

This is my photography website, so... I'm an avid amateur photographer, and I travel to many places around the world and take photos. So this is my website that shows it off.

Pure-Pessimism2 karma

What is your favorite Movie?

Thomas_Knoll9 karma


phostershop2 karma

When was the earliest time you recall "photoshop" being used as a verb? How did that strike you?

Thomas_Knoll2 karma

I don't recall the specific time. It was definitely in the 1990s. Most of the time I go through life as a normal person, and don't think about Photoshop. And the 2 times in my daily life when it sort of hits me is one, walking into a random chain bookstore in the United State and seeing the Photoshop shelf, and the other time is when you're watching a movie or TV and you hear the word "Photoshop" as a verb.

name-classified2 karma

Would you rather be Batman or Superman?

Thomas_Knoll8 karma

Well, I think Superman. Because I like to fly. I own airplanes, and I'm a pilot, so I like to fly around. So definitely Superman.

AntiSombrero1 karma

Are you still involved in expanding what Photoshop can do, or is that handled by Adobe and their programmers? also If you could add any one feature that would be completely innovative what would it be?

Thomas_Knoll3 karma

I have worked on Photoshop and Photoshop-related programs at Adobe ever since version 1.0.

Over that time, the Photoshop team has grown from 1 programmer (for version 1 - me), to probably 50 programmers at the moment.

For the last 12 years or so, I've been working on the camera raw plugin to Photoshop, which is also used by Adobe as the develop module for Adobe Lightroom.

If I knew what that would be, I probably would have added it. So if you're talking about a fictional feature - what everybody wants as a fictional feature is a button that makes your images look perfect!