A Hungarian native, Szabo emigrated to North America as a young man, fleeing Communism before the Hungarian Revolution. He lived in Canada for circa 30 years, moved to Arizona in the 1970s, and North Carolina in the 80s.
He wrote numerous books about painting in watercolor, including Zoltan Szabo's 70 Favorite Watercolor Techniques
; and Zoltan Szabo's Color by Color Guide to Watercolor Painting.
He taught workshops all over North America as well as Europe, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.