Notable early practitioners of watercolor painting were Van Dyck (during his stay in England), Claude Lorrain, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, and many Dutch and Flemish artists.However, botanical illustration and wildlife illustration perhaps form the oldest and most important traditions in watercolor painting.An important school of watercolor painting in Germany was led by Hans Bol (1534–1593) as part of the Dürer Renaissance.Despite this early start, watercolors were generally used by Baroque easel painters only for sketches, copies or cartoons (full-scale design drawings).Satirical broadsides by Thomas Rowlandson, many published by Rudolph Ackermann, were also extremely popular.
In East Asia, watercolor painting with inks is referred to as brush painting or scroll painting.
Among the elite and aristocratic classes, watercolor painting was one of the incidental adornments of a good education; mapmakers, military officers, and engineers used it for its usefulness in depicting properties, terrain, fortifications, field geology, and for illustrating public works or commissioned projects.
Watercolor artists were commonly brought with the geological or archaeological expeditions, funded by the Society of Dilettanti (founded in 1733), to document discoveries in the Mediterranean, Asia, and the New World.
The traditional and most common support—material to which the paint is applied—for watercolor paintings is paper.
Other supports include papyrus, bark papers, plastics, vellum, leather, fabric, wood and canvas.