Watercolor paper is often made entirely or partially with cotton, which gives a good texture and minimizes distortion when wet.
The three English artists credited with establishing watercolor as an independent, mature painting medium are Paul Sandby (1730–1809), often called the "father of the English watercolor"; Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), who pioneered its use for large format, romantic or picturesque landscape painting; and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who brought watercolor painting to the highest pitch of power and refinement, and created hundreds of superb historical, topographical, architectural, and mythological watercolor paintings.
However, its continuous history as an art medium begins with the Renaissance.
The German Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), who painted several fine botanical, wildlife, and landscape watercolors, is generally considered among the earliest exponents of watercolor.
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.