Smart lights are fast becoming mainstream, but nothing available out there today can light up an entire wall the way the Nanoleaf Canvas can. The company’s original set of light panels – christened Aurora at launch, but now simply called the Nanoleaf Light Panels – come close, but not quite.
With the ability to touch panels to change colors, or set up a ‘rhythm scene’ without needing a separate attachment, the Nanoleaf Canvas can turn any drab wall into a work of interactive, colorful art.
Like the original Nanoleaf Light Panels, the Canvas is also a pricey investment for any smart home – yet after using the basic starter kit, we’re happy to admit we’re already considering splurging on an expansion pack to add more panels to our wall.
And if you think the colors might be garish in any way, fear not. They’re mesmerizing, soothing, and you could stare at them for hours without tiring of them, even at 100% brightness. The Canvas can add personality to any space – large or small. They’re perfect to set the scene for a romantic night in, or pulse through a room with the music when a party is rocking. And the touch-sensitive panels make using the lights a whole lot of fun.
Pricing and availability
The Nanoleaf Canvas starter kit, which includes nine panels, is currently available to order either via the company’s website or through select retail stores for a price of $249.99 in the US, £179.99 in the UK and AU$319 in Australia.
Bigger packs with 18 and 25 light panels are also available from the company’s website, but retail stores currently only stock the starter kit along with an expansion pack of four additional panels – the latter costs $80/£70/AU$109.
Also worth noting is that, while the original Nanoleaf Light Panels required an optional Rhythm Module to make the lights dance to your choice of music, you don’t need to purchase any other accessories for the Nanoleaf Canvas. That’s now powered by a single control panel which is included in each pack.
Unlike the Nanoleaf Light Panels’ triangular shape, the Canvas consists of square panels. If you’re already familiar with older Nanoleaf lights, you’ll immediately notice that the Canvas panels are smaller – the triangular Light Panels measure 21cm in height and 24cm across the base, while the Canvas panels are 15cm x 15cm each. Both sets of lights, though, are made from the same lightweight white plastic.
Alongside that change in overall shape, the new panels have also undergone a small internal design change as well. You’ll notice each square is divided into four sections. This unique design disperses light evenly through the panel, and produces a pleasing crystal-like effect when the lights are switched on. However, despite being divided into sections, each panel is capable of throwing off only a single color of light at a time.
The other thing Nanoleaf has nailed this time around is the brightness of the light. When set to 100% brightness, the older Light Panels were arguably too bright to look at directly, but the Canvas is just right – you’ll never need to squint at it.
Other than the nine light panels, the starter pack also has the power hub (with the product code printed on it – more on that later), the linkers to connect each panel to each other and double-sided tape so you can stick the lights to you walls.
The tape supplied is similar to 3M’s Command strips – they’re just as strong (if not more so) and have a tab that can be pulled to remove the tape off the wall without damage… theoretically at least.
In reality, we found that peeling them off the wall was near-impossible because of the design of the panels themselves. There are three plastic strips visible on the back of each panel where the tape needs to be applied. Unfortunately, the depth at which these strips are placed is so far back that the little tab to peel the tape off gets hidden behind the panel when it’s put up on the wall. That means you’ll likely be peeling off paint along with the panel if you want to move the lights to another spot in the house or want to redesign the look.
On the underside of each panel are slots where the linkers will slide in. There are multiple slots on each panel to choose from, giving you the freedom to get creative with your design layout. Nanoleaf also sells flexible linkers (sold separately) which are perfect for when you want to expand your design to creep up onto the ceiling for some excellent light effects.
The power hub also ends with a small linker at one end, which will slide into the panel closest to your wall socket. If your design layout starts well above the location of the power socket, you will have get used to the cable dangling against the wall. If you think it’s an eyesore and would prefer to have some form of cable management, it will have to be a DIY job.
We popped the power hub’s linker into the Control Square. This is the panel that has a rhythm module built in. So, unlike the Aurora, you don’t need to buy a separate accessory to make your lights dance to your favorite tunes. The Control Square also has the buttons for turning the lights on and off, changing scenes and adjusting brightness. So your family and friends will be able to control the lights without needing access to the app or a smart speaker. The buttons, though, are under a removable transparent sticker which details what the each symbol means.
You’d be forgiven if you think installing the Nanoleaf Canvas on your wall is an intimidating task. Honestly, it’s not. But before you get too excited to start putting the panels up, you will need to decide on a design.
The Aurora came with triangular pieces of paper between each panel, which could be used to design the template. The Canvas, however, has no sheets of paper. The best way to build your design would be to lay the panels themselves on a large table or on the floor and go from there. You can also use the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app to come up with options based on the number of panels you have with the Layout Assistant – if your smartphone supports it, this process can also be done using augmented reality.
It’s important to keep in mind that you will need to align the linker slots to match your design, like a jigsaw puzzle. If those slots don’t line up when designing your template, you’ll need to adjust on the fly when putting the panels up and you may end up with a whole new layout on the wall.
When you’ve decided on your design, it’s time to get sticky. This process will require some patience as you’ll want to ensure everything is straight and exactly where you want it – once stuck, you’ll have a hard time removing the panel without damaging the wall.
Before you get the second panel on the wall, we’d recommend slipping the linker into it first in the slot that aligns with the first panel. While holding the panel at a slight angle so as to not accidentally stick it on the wall, slide the protruding end of the linker into the slot of the first panel already up. You may feel a tiny bit of resistance as the connector plates depress into the first square, but the linker slides in easily enough. Once in, you can stick the second panel on. Continue this process till you’ve got your layout on the wall.
Lastly, slide the linker on the power hub into the final panel and switch it on.
Thanks to the Control Square you don’t necessarily need the app to turn your lights on and off, or change scenes. It works wonderfully well straight out of the box. However, you will need the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app to set up voice control using HomeKit, Google Home or Amazon Alexa devices. You’ll also need it to download other scenes and set up schedules to automate the lights.
If you are a first-time Nanoleaf user, you’ll need to create an account with the company first. This also lets you link the Canvas to Google Assistant and Alexa.
Once your account is set up, you’re ready to pair. You just need to follow what the app prompts you to do. You will, however, need the product code (or QR code) printed on the user manual that ships with the starter kit. In case you’ve thrown that out, you’ll find it on the power hub (as mentioned above).
If you’re having difficulty pairing the device, do a soft reset by pressing the ‘-’ and power buttons on the Control Square together for 10-12 seconds and try pairing again.
After the lights have been paired, you can assign it to a room and, if you’re using an iOS device, this process automatically adds the Canvas to Apple’s Home app, from where you can control the lights.
Keep in mind that you can’t control your lights remotely via the app – you will need to be on the same network for any changes to come into effect.
On the app you’ll find a plethora of Color and Rhythm scenes you can download. The color scenes get added to HomeKit on iOS devices automatically, giving you easy access to all your smart home devices in one place.
The app also allows you to set up schedules – you can set a time for the lights to turn on, how often you want scenes to change and so on.
Another standout feature of the Canvas lights is the ability to set a fade duration during scheduling. Similar to the fade in and fade out feature on Philips Hue bulbs, the Canvas lights can be programmed to do the same, even simulate a sunrise.
The touch-sensitive panels give you the ability to interact with the lights in a few different ways. The simplest way to interact with Canvas is to touch any panel; this sends out a ripple and the color of the light on that particular panel will change, depending on the scene lighting up the wall.
There are also touch gestures you can use on Canvas. These aren’t dependent on light scenes but can be used to control the lights themselves, like changing scenes, adjusting brightness or turning the Canvas on or off. These can be configured in the app.
The touch capacitive nature of the panels also converts Canvas into interactive games. On the app, under the Discover section’s Interactive tab, you’ll find a few games you can play, including Memory, Whack A Mole, PacMan and Game of Life.
If you can think of any other game that can be played on Canvas, or you prefer a color scene not already available on the app, Nanoleaf lets you create those scenes yourself. These get added to the ever-growing library of user-built options available to download for free.
It’s quite difficult to criticize a device that has the ability to transform a space, any space – be it an office, a child’s nursery, a study, or a living room. Nanoleaf already had a cool product in the original Light Panels, but the company has definitely come close to perfection with the Canvas.
The Canvas might be an extravagance, but you’ll be hard-pressed to regret that you ever spent money on it. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted more panels to fill your walls (and potentially ceiling) with color and life.
It’s a versatile kit – you can have fun with it, it works well with other mood lighting (in fact, if you have an elaborate setup, the Canvas can replace mood lighting altogether), and it’s transformative. It’s guaranteed to lighten your mood, no matter how bad your day was.
If only Nanoleaf could come up with a better design to make sure the panels peel off a wall without causing any damage…