Hands-on with EasyCanvas, a second display app designed for digital artists

Every beginning digital artist has to make a decision first: buy a standalone tablet for drawing or get a pen display that adds drawing capabilities to your PC or Mac. But what if you’re struggling to decide what’s best for you? What if you wanted it both ways?

Turning your standalone tablet into a second monitor that supports pen input is a great idea, especially if you’ve decided to pick up one of the shiny new Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 models. An app like Devguru’s EasyCanvas makes this process easier, turning your iPad or Galaxy Tab into a pen display similar to Wacom’s Cintiq line.

I tried out the app to find out if the affordable service can really give you a viable alternative to a $1,000+ business device.

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Benefits:

  • Mirrors or extends your display

  • Supports wireless and USB connections

  • Works with Apple Pencil, S Pen and Wacom styli

  • Relatively low latency

  • Includes a free trial

  • MacOS and Windows compatibility

The inconvenients:

  • Trial recently reduced from 14 to 3 days.

  • Galaxy Tabs are the only supported Android devices at this time

  • Pen hover does not move Windows cursor

  • No virtual keyboard option

Installation and set up

Installation is simple. You will first need to go to EasyLight’s website to download and install EL Display Hub on your computer. From there, you can access the Play Store on your Galaxy Tab and download the appropriate version of the EasyCanvas app. There are two application options: one for those who wish to subscribe to an annual subscription and another for those who prefer to pay only once. It doesn’t matter what you choose; you get the same functionality either way.

In the EL Display Hub you will find a few settings that you can adjust. If you are already using multiple monitors, you can select which one you want to mirror. You can also extend your display if you prefer, however. If your machine is a little slow, you might want to switch to Medium or Low in the Performance mode settings. The app also offers you a recommended resolution for the best experience, but you are free to change it.

When you first connect your tablet, you will need to use a wired connection to pair your two devices. After that, you are free to connect wirelessly as long as your EL Display Hub is running. It is set to start automatically when your system boots by default, so you shouldn’t worry about it.

Latency is very low over USB, but when it comes to a wireless connection, it really depends on the type of Wi-Fi you have. Both devices must be connected to the same network, of course.

Settings for EasyCanvas on desktop and tablet.

Your second screen

Who doesn’t need at least two screens these days? Whether I use a second screen to have reference images on the side while I draw, research articles, or just watch YouTube in the background, a second screen has become a productivity necessity for me. With EasyCanvas, you get this feature with pen and touch support.

When it comes to scrolling and consuming content, you should find things work pretty well wirelessly. I had no problem there. But if you’re looking at EasyCanvas, it’s probably because you want to turn your tablet into a pen display for creating art using your desktop software. For this I would recommend a wired connection.

The drawing experience

Pen support alone is not enough to provide a good drawing experience. Above all, you need smooth pressure sensitivity and relatively low latency. EasyCanvas does this well and even gives you the option to customize your pressure curve. So if you prefer to press lightly and still get a bold line, it’s easy to adjust that in the app’s toolbar. Full support for Samsung tablets and the S Pen enables a full range of features, such as pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition and palm rejection.


I’m using EasyCanvas on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, and drawing over a wired connection is pretty decent. Latency isn’t as low as it could be on a proper pen display tablet like a Wacom Cintiq or Huion Kamvas, but it’s not uncomfortable at all. When you go wireless, you may experience occasional connection dropouts, with smudges or small holes in your lines reflecting as much. A little boring here and there, but not a train wreck.

In terms of touch gestures, you get the basics in EasyCanvas: two-finger pinch to zoom, rotate and pan. That’s enough, but if you’re working in Clip Studio Paint, it also recognizes a two-finger tap to undo, which is nice.

I’m not crazy about how right-click works, involving a one-second press, hold, and release of the stylus. It behaves differently depending on what program you are using and where you click too. iPad-exclusive competitor Astropad opts for a gesture that lets you tap the screen with two fingers and then type with the stylus, which seems much more reliable.

The quality of lines with the pen is another crucial part of any drawing app or service. I noticed an occasional effect in some apps, with an unexpected thin taper appearing after lifting my pen. This tends to happen a bit more with faster lines. I also noticed unwanted wobble in my lines. In programs like Clip Studio Paint or Krita, it is possible to increase the smoothing or stabilization of your brush, which tends to solve the problem.

EasyCanvas includes a narrow toolbar that appears on the side of your tablet screen. The bar consists of three sections, with eight of its sixteen buttons customizable with the keyboard shortcuts of your choice. By default, it gives you pretty universal shortcuts like undo and redo as well as quick access to eraser, brush, eyedropper tool, and more.


Other buttons allow you to lock the toolbar in place, open the settings for changing keyboard shortcuts, adjust your pen pressure curve, and resize the display. There are also unnecessary Tutorial and About buttons. I don’t really see why it needed separate (and hard-coded) buttons on the toolbar for all these things rather than having a single Settings shortcut to manage them. I would prefer a few more buttons to customize instead.

Of course, you’re not always going to be drawing, and you might not need that toolbar that takes up a lot of space on your screen. The first icon shrinks it down to a single red floating button.

Customize EasyCanvas keyboard shortcuts and toolbar icons.

Pricing

Despite some of the shortcomings documented here, there’s one reason EasyCanvas stands out: pricing. You can either pay just $11 once or $6 a year if you go the subscription route.

A well-established similar program is Astropad, as mentioned earlier. It starts at $30 for the standard version and is exclusive to iPad users, which makes it even clearer what a great price EasyCanvas offers. And unlike that, EasyCanvas works for both iPad and Galaxy Tabs on Windows and macOS, but unfortunately not other Android tablets.

Conclusion

When it comes to the basic functionality of EasyCanvas, I have no complaints. Things are very smooth and responsive, and I’m quite happy with the app. An additional feature that I would like to see that would make using EasyCanvas even better when your computer is in another room would be the addition of a floating keyboard. Another thing I miss is an easily accessible eraser function similar to what you get on Astropad: press and hold a point on the screen with one finger while erasing with your stylus. In fact, I was surprised how much I liked it.

Would EasyCanvas really replace a dedicated pen display for digital art? It’s unlikely, but it gets the job done and is a great option if you already have an iPad or Galaxy Tab. I’d say for most users that’s definitely enough, but professional illustrators will probably prefer a dedicated pen display.

If all you want is a wireless second screen and aren’t too bothered about pen support, check out Devguru’s alternative app, TwoMon Air.


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About the Author

Marilyn M. Davis