Hey this is looking really nice so far!
Thanks all for the continued feedback.
@Hai-Etlik, your info on projections is much appreciated. I probably should have been a little more descriptive of this as a 'base map'. Basically yes, I will be using this as the foundation in some other maps I'm going to be doing but I doubt I will actually use this in its current projection, mostly for the reasons you mentioned. Equirectangular projection is kinda boring artistically, but for a base it is, as you said, the easiest to understand and implement, especially when you're not designing with digital heightmap data.
I chose to go for this quasi-photorealistic style because it will warp well, whereas vector symbols would not. Admittedly, some distortion is inevitable but since the majority of my landmass is away from the poles the distortion will be minimized when I start actually projecting my basemap into the styles I plan to use. Fortunately I am still at the point where I can go back and make some changes if the distortion is particularly noticeable. Also, I should be able to incorporate any natural terrain features, as well as a lot of line data (like roads or even political boundaries, so long as the lines are crisp) into the basemap before projection.
Yeah, the compass rose will definitely have to go. Are there any projections in which directional preservation actually occurs? Since, at least to start, I'll be doing some modern-style maps, are there any projections you can suggest or suggest to stay away from? A lot of atlases I see nowadays seem to prefer one of the Wagner projections (VII is one of my personal favorites). I know many moons ago when I was in grade school it seemed everything was Goode Homolosine Interrupted and before that everything was Mercator, Mercator, Mercator (no Virginia, Greenland is not bigger than South America).
I'm using G Projector, which to date is the best map projection utility I've found out there in terms of different styles, assuming of course you've got an equirectangular map to start from. I know there are some other programs out there, but this has been particularly good for me since I'm running a mac and it seems to have a good ability not to choke on really large files.
Here's a quick-and-dirty rendering of my world in Wagner VII format:
At large scales (zoomed in or more accurately, less zoomed out) where you cover only a small area, any projection with little distortion within the extent of the map can also have a compass rose. Generally, a more detailed rose implies less distortion. A simple arrow is fine with any projection where north is generally the same direction, whereas a modern navigation chart style rose would only be appropriate for a map with very low distortion.
Scale bars are similar, except there are no projections that preserve all (or even most) distances. The equidistant projection you are using preserves north-south distances, and distances along the equator. All others are distorted (more so further from the equator and further from north/south), and that's about the best you will get out of any projection. Most regional projections are designed to preserve distances as well as possible within their region, The UTM coordinate system is an example of this using multiple Transverse Mercator projections to sweep out narrow bands of the Earth.
If you want to check if you've got significant polar distortion, try a polar projection. Polar Stereographic would work well for this, pick "Stereographic" and set latitude to 90° or -90° If it looks wonky, you've got a problem, if not, you are good to go.
Thanks all for the continued feedback and especially @Hai-Etlik for the tip on polar steographic projection to check for polar distortion. I may have to tweak my "Australia" continent a bit but the others are looking good.
Here's the latest incarnation. Since last time I've reworked the rivers and coastlines in Illustrator, established some workflow for getting stuff between Illustrator & Photoshop and begun adding some villages/names to what will eventually be a political map. Nothing set in stone, I just wanted to play around with the toponymy and get a feel for what cultures were going where, especially in the areas of the world that were heretofore unexplored.