And another thing...
The first step in demystifying PathTrace is understanding why it's there and how it came to be.
The other important thing we do in Wizard University classes is ease people into PathTrace. The most anxious and excited questions come about PathTrace. Everyone asks about it in a mysterious way. They know it can do many things, but many who have explored it a little find it intractable.
PathTrace is the corner of the Wizard MatDesigner software where we can change bevel types, where we can alter designs and we can even draw things. People find the story of the origins of PathTrace to be enlightening and comforting. Its story is interwoven with everyone's love-hate relationship with CADD. PathTrace began as the translation program to give CADD drawings their cutting instructions. It didn't take long for us to realize that we all thought we were better at CADD than we really were. When we finished a drawing, too often we found untrimmed junctions and double lines. PathTrace could not work with these imperfect shapes so a few repair functions were added. The story can be told now that these were in Dave's private toolbox for years. We found that with these simple functions we could do some surprising design alterations.
Throughout this time, Wizard's development plan was to integrate popular CADD tricks into the MatDesigner: things like rotating an item, merging shapes, or fanning a group of items. These were the things framers needed to do in CADD, but it was obvious from the start that a majority of folks did not like working with CADD one little bit. So we made a list of all the things we depended on CADD to do and decided to add simplified drawing and alteration functions to PathTrace. Even though it remains a simple program it has one great superiority over CADD: you can open a picture in the background of PathTrace and draw over it. In CADD this was a monumental task. In PathTrace it is a snap. It has made tracing logos and outlines possible for us all.
If you want a look at some of the things we do, there are a couple of revamped articles in the Education section you should review. One is PathTrace and Design Alteration, the other is The Oval Inset Mat. These are step by step instructions on how to do these particular designs. Along the way, there are detailed explanations of the PathTrace functions you'll need to complete the project.
This project oriented approach works pretty well. Byt the time you've run through a few of these projects, you'll have a pretty good grasp on many PathTrace functions and you'll begin to apply what you've learned to projects of your own.
I cite these two articles because they are pretty basic, they are practical ideas, and they are recently updated. Look over the others, too. Even if you really don't care about drawing hearts, you may learn something that will help you draw those medieval weapons you've been itching to include in your mats. Who knows what will inspire you.