Inlay differs from marquetry, a similar technique, in that marquetry is applied over an entire surface of an object, whereas inlay consists of small pieces inserted into cut spaces in the base material.
Inlay is commonly used in production of decorative furniture, where pieces of coloured wood or metal are inserted into the veneer. Lutherie inlays are frequently used as decoration and marking on musical instruments, particularly the smaller strings.
The most famous example of furniture inlay in Europe may be the late 15th century Studiolo made for Federico da Montefeltro in his Ducal Palace at Urbino, in which trompe-l'oeil shelving seems to carry books, papers, curios and mathematical instruments, in eye-deceiving perspective. A similar private study made at Gubbio is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.