Rubber spatulas are used mainly for copper plate and wood intaglio printing and for removing excess ink from the block. They generally comprise a wooden handle with a piece of rounded rubber on the end or a squeegee large enough to fit in the hand.
When packing ink into a copper plate, special tools were used such as an ink-clad hide roller or a piece of deer hide wadding called a dabber. But in most cases today, rubber spatulas are used because they are easier to handle and flexible. When packing ink with a spatula it is important to hold it upright. This will allow the pliability of the rubber to push the ink deep into the grooves in the plate. If the ink is not pushed deep into the grooves, the printed product will have white spaces where the ink has not reached.
After using the spatula, first wipe the ink from it with a cloth and then clean any residual ink off with a solvent (print cleaner, etc.) until there is no color remaining. If ink is left on the spatula, the residual ink will affect the product next time the spatula is used. Therefore, it is important to clean it thoroughly.
Rubber spatulas can be purchased at art supply stores that handle printing supplies.