After the ground is removed, the plate is ready for inking. In an intaglio process, the ink is retained in the incised lines. A cloth ball, cardboard tab, or equivalent material is used to gently spread ink across the whole face of the plate; the same material is used to remove most of the excess ink from the surface. The plate is further cleaned using a tarlatan rag (heavily starched cheesecloth).
As a last measure, printmakers often use the sides of their hand to wipe away the last bits of ink. In certain cases, a printmaker can choose not to clean the plate entirely, but to leave a thin layer of ink on the plate to create tone.