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In this tutorial I will explain how to draw Highlights. If you ever asked yourself the following questions:

  1. Where do I put my Hightlights?
  2. Are Highlights hard or soft?
  3. Which brushes should I use for Highlights?
  4. Which colors have Highlights?

Then this tutorial will help you answer all of them. In this tutorial I’ll be using the magic of 3D rendering to visualize various concepts! My goal is to take away the guessing aspect and clear up this topic.

1. Where do I put my Hightlights?

To answer this, first we’ll need to know what Highlights actually are. In 2D illustration, we call certain bright areas on and around objects highlights. In 3D rendering (CGI) Highlights are called specs, speculars or Specular Highlights.

“Specular Highlights are reflections of the light source”#

The location of Specular Highlights depend on the position of the light source(s). They appear on a point where the angle of light hitting an object is the same as the angle of the light reaching the viewer. This may sound very mathematical and difficult to imagine, but we can make it easier for us.

Just for visualizing purposes. Not a physically accurate representation.

If we imagine that the object is made of a polished metal like chrome, we can clearly see the Specular Highlight (the reflection of the light source). That’s because a material like chrome consist only of specular reflections. Specular reflections is just a fancy term for mirror-like reflections.

A sphere with a chrome material reflecting it’s suroundings like a mirror

On sphere-like objects like eyes it’s pretty easy to determine that point. On cylindrical shapes, the Specular Highlight gets streched along it’s height/ length.