The San Francisco Color Factory

The Color Factory San Francisco

The Color Factory is where you experience all the hues of the rainbow with more than just your eyes.

From the first room to the last, you smell colours, taste them, play in them and listen to them.

For the spelling aficionados playing along at home, it’s Color Factory by name and colour by nature. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I went to the San Francisco Color Factory a few months after visiting the Ice Cream Museum, ready for another experience to make me feel like a kid again. And I was far from disappointed.

The Color Factory is everything you’d expect from a building dedicated to pigment. Worshippers of black and white are welcome, but might be overwhelmed by the rainbow connection inside.


For want of a better term, let’s call it orientation. When you file into the building it’s down a flight of stairs and into a rainbow-striped room to a bright yellow desk.

Color Factory Stairwell

Once your ticket is scanned it’s onwards to one of the most interesting tasting and smelling rooms of the entire factory.

But first logistics. Add your name and email address to the tablets along the wall and scan your very own Color Factory ID card.

Color Factory Sign in for photos

From here on out, scan the barcode on your card at any of the photography kiosks along your journey. The photos will be emailed directly to you! No need to bribe anyone into being the photographer or leaving anyone out of your shots.


Remember the smell of your grandmother’s perfume as she hugged you tightly? Or the distinctly heavy fragrance that descends just before a massive thunderstorm?

Smells can take you back to a certain place and time in an instant, and here they’re all associated with a colour.

Smell the rainbow

Forget the instant joy you feel when you found a chocolate at the bottom of your post (thanks past me!). What does it smell like?

It’s right there on the wall for you to sniff. And they’re surprisingly accurate. From Morning Glories in bloom to grape bubblegum that loses its flavor too soon – there’s a smell for every colour.

Some of them aren’t ones you’re necessarily going to want to permeate your nostrils. So finish it all off with the smell of drinking out of coconuts on the beach and you’ll be golden!

It’s time to turn to the delicious treats to your left!

Step on over to the Wheel of Fortune/Colour Wheel of Macarons and taste the rainbow. To borrow a phrase.


Generally, if you were presented with a glass of black liquid, your first reaction would be “where can I dump this?”.

Don’t even try to dispute it. Anything that shade should be returned to the scummy pond from which it was harvested, right? (These aren’t rhetorical questions people, I expect your answers in the comments)

Alright, now suspend your disbelief long enough to try the charcoal lemonade. I can’t give you a proper review, since Australian lemonade tastes so much different to the US kind already.

Black and White Laboratory @colorfactoryco ⬛️⬜️⬛️⬜️ #colorfactoryco

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But I didn’t hate it at all. Which is much more than I can say about “regular” US lemonade.

Oakland artist Tosha Stimage put together the orange portion of proceedings. Her work, as described by KQED’s Sarah Burke, is about the limitations of language and this show examines the colour orange as an analogy for black identity.

Tasha Stimage Oranges

There’s every orange thing you can think of lining shelves, pinned to walls, hanging from the ceiling and even a beanbag on the floor.


I challenge you to walk into a room covered in balloons and keep the smile off your face. You can’t! It’s impossible.

Color Factory Balloon Room

Balloons remind us of parties, celebrations, time spent as kids swatting them at each other or tightly gripping helium-filled balloons.

Remember the 70s? Me neither. But you can experience the era of disco-fever in the room full of disco balls and tunes.

Discoballs at the Color Factory

Choose your soundtrack from the buttons on the far wall, mine was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles (how can you go past a girl with kaleidoscope eyes?), and watch the lights roll around the room.


I didn’t have a Light Bright when I was a kid, I actually didn’t know what they were until this part of the Color Factory.

Light Bright Love Heart

I would have felt like I’d missed out had I not been able to play with the giant Light Bright here. Of course, I made a heart and marveled at the other designs created by visitor’s past.

Onwards to do the one thing that was strictly banned in our household – drawing on the walls. Illustrators Andy J. Miller and Andrew Neyer covered the walls in murals ready for you to colour with the world’s largest texta’s. What are texta’s called in the US? Sharpies? Those things.

Colouring the walls green

It took a while, but I finally got one leaf coloured. It was worth the work out.


Get lost in the cube of 10,000 ribbons hanging from the ceiling – but be careful – you never know who, or what, you’ll find in there.

Rainbow ribbon cube

Although it does feel like you’re on your own in a world of coloured-ribbons. Artist and creator Jacob Dahlgren is such a colour-lover that he’s worn a striped shirt every day for the past 13 years.

See if you can make it to the other side of the cube without bumping into anyone or losing your sense of direction.

Rainbow Hallway

Stop for a few photos in the rainbow hallway before you get to the last few rooms of the Color Factory.


Playing in confetti is one of the most fun experiences in the factory, bar just one more that’s on its way.

The confetti room was filled with adults and kids alike, throwing handfuls up in the air, fistfuls at each other and standing under the confetti rain.

Confetti room

Goodluck getting it all out of your clothes and hair though. My hoodie collected a fair amount of coloured paper. If anyone from the Color Factory’s reading this, just let me know if you want it all back.

The “Selfie” room is a monument to voyeurism and narcissism rolled into one, although I’m not quite sure that’s what the artist was getting at.

Tom Stayte coded and put together a machine that prints out Instagram photos that are labelled #selfie.

Color Factory Selfies

A new image hits the floor every 12 seconds (that’s where the narcissism comes in). The voyeuristic part is all of us peering down at the pictures, wondering who the person behind the photo is and considering sending our own #selfie.


The moment I’d been waiting for from the very beginning – the sunny yellow ball pit. This thing is serious, spanning an entire room, shaped like a pool complete with stairs and railings to lower yourself in.


The ballroom was filled with people of all ages – from seniors to little kids – recapturing their youth or living it with giant smiles on their faces.

Fall into the pit, wade your way through the sea of yellow, take a million photos and help your fellow pool-ers through.


Tickets went as quickly as they were released for the San Francisco Color Factory. A second release of tickets for September just sold out.

But keep your eyes on the Factory’s mailing list for another release of San Francisco tickets and news of other locations!

Color Factory | San Francisco Color Factory | Colors | Things to do in San Francisco | Kids trips in San Francisco | rainbows | colors | pretty colors | Aussie Expat | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life

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44 thoughts on “The San Francisco Color Factory

  1. OMG I’ve heard so much about this place, and every single part of it looks so cool!! Also, I’m really glad you clarified textas haha. I was so confused at first!

    1. As I was writing it, it dawned on me that I had no idea if there was some generic term for them in the US. Is there? I mean it’s fine if you’re using sharpies, but what do you call sharpies that are a different brand?

  2. If only San Fran was not so far away from Sydney… we’d be there! Thank you for sharing these photos though, more to add to the trip to the US I’d like to make one day with my little one.

    SSG xxx

  3. I am coming to SF JUST for this experience…and obvs to see you! That is my dream place. I am so into colour…that is amazing. I went to an exhibition at the museum of contemporary art in 2014 where all the walls and floors were covered in…stripes of different colours. I just stood there transfixed until I got my bearings and then I photographed it. LOVE colours!! Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. On Mon 11 Sept #LifeThisWeek turns one and that is the prompt! Next week: First car/bike.

    1. Hahaha, I’m glad that you’d make some time to see me as well 🙂 I’m all about colour as well, it’s great at lifting my mood sometimes.

      That Contemporary Art exhibition sounds like it would be right up my alley. Were the stairs outside also in different colours? Or am I remembering something completely different?

  4. I’m very intrigued by the charcoal lemonade idea… but I do really like USA lemonade haha so I’m not sure how I would feel about it. I’ve heard charcoal is good for your pores, so what can go wrong? Looks like so much fun!

    1. Yeah, charcoal is supposedly good for a few things, but I feel like they say that at least once about everything. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get a picture of the charcoal lemonade!

  5. This looks so much fun. I can’t believe all the tickets have sold out! My FOMO is real. For the record, it’s always going to be a no from me when it comes to black lemonade 🙂

    1. I didn’t mention it to you because tickets for September were sold out before I knew you were visiting. Otherwise I totally would have told you to put it on the list.
      LOL, but charcoal lemonade is good for you!

  6. Oh my God! My husband and I were just talking about the colour factory last night and how much we would love to visit the place! Perfect timing for this post. Were all the colours too overwhelming or are they fine? I love the video of the wheel of fortune too!

    1. Haha, what a coincidence! It’s not overwhelming in the slightest, it’s really good at switching you between bright rooms and ones with more muted tones.

  7. This colour factory really looks like a fun place to be with family and friends! I love the fact that there are photography kiosks and that the photos will be emailed directly to you. That’s very convenient & thoughtful! My favourite rooms would probably be Blue Balloons & Discomania (with Staying Alive by Bee Gees playing!) and the Ballroom, where I’d probably spend most of my time in. In any case, I can’t believe that there is only a selfie every 12 seconds on Instagram! Looking at my on Instagram timeline, 12 selfies in a second is more like it, I think, haha!

  8. This looks like such a fun experience – I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it before! I especially love the LiteBrite, such a fun childhood toy!

    Was this place especially crowded and crazy or did you have time and space to explore? I love these sort of attractions but it’s always disappointing when they’re too full to move!

  9. This is well, different. Definitely something i’d like to try. The closest i’ve heard about a venue targetting on your senses is a one of a kind theme park in Mexico, not too far from Cancun. Park is called Xenses.

  10. This is “the place” for me. I am crazy about colors and I love the splatter of colors – all bright and beautiful. That colorful stairs is my favorite

  11. What a totally unique experience – I’ve been to SF so many times but never heard of it. Heading there next week, maybe I’ll try to find some time to squeeze this one in.

  12. This looks like so much fun! So nice they have photo kiosks and they just email you the pictures. I am curious about the lemonade. I don’t think I tried lemonade in Australia. I am guessing it is less sweet? I don’t think I would like charcoal either. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  13. So so fun! I do hope they’ll bring this to LA at some point, as I loved The Museum of Ice Cream and even went twice! I’ve never been a lemonade fan myself, no matter the country, but if I get a chance I’ll definitely give this one a try… why not! #theweeklypostcard

  14. What an amazing place! Have you heard whether many people suffer from sensory overload after a visit or are there options to ‘time out’ along the way? The colour bounces straight out of your photos – they are great! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  15. This sounds like a super fun way to spend a day out! I love ball pits (please don’t judge) and that would definitely be the highlight for me 🙂 And photo kiosks are a great idea. I’m so tired of having people take your picture and then try and make you fork out more money for it! Also: I feel ya on color/colour.

  16. I have seen tons of photos of this place on Instagram. How cool! Not sure if you have heard about the Museum of Ice Cream (it is going to San Francisco). It is a similar concept. It came to LA during the summer but the tickets sold out in a matter of days (if not hours). So, these installations are very popular. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  17. The Color Factory looks so awesome! I missed out on the August tickets, but was able to snag a pair when they released more for September. Your post got me excited to go in two weeks!

  18. You’re soooo lucky to have been able to visit both the Ice Cream Museum and this! I think my favorite is definitely The Ballroom. The yellow just makes it look like such a happy space (although I’d imagine walking through it to be super tough hahaa). Sniffing the walls must’ve been a fun/silly thing to do too. I can definitely see why this exhibition is so popular. Bummer that tickets sell out so fast tho because I was really hoping to visit SF and check this place out! 🙁

  19. This is so cool! I can’t imagine leaving without feeling cheered up – and lots of things to make you think. I remember putting black and blue food colouring on pizza at a party once (there was a reason) and it became instantly outputting even though I knew it was perfectly good pizza. Think I would have as much fun as my daughter here! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    1. It was such a blast Cathy! I want to go back to that yellow ball pit again. An I loved that they had cameras where you could take selfies everywhere so that if you went alone (like I did) you could still get some photos of yourself. It’s funny how we react to some colours, isn’t it? I’m trying to imagine black and blue pizza right now… it’s making my stomach turn a little!

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