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Consider if you have a polished metal ball, with a bright light source shining on it. Then you will see a bright reflection of that light on the surface of the metal ball. This is one example of a specular highlight.

The size of the specular highlight depends on the material of the surface. If we take the previous metal ball example, it will have a very sharp highlight. This would be called a highly specular surface. But take, say, a polished shoe, or a waxed apple. This will still have a specular highlight, but it will be larger and not so concentrated, since the reflection won't be as sharp. This is a less specular surface.

Specular highlights are a special issue in computer graphics, since adding specular highlights to scenes can enhance photorealism. Various illumination models in computer graphics model the variation of this specular highlight, the most well-known being the Phong illumination model.

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