Numerical simulations of dynamic earthquake rupture require an artificial initiation procedure, if they are not integrated in long-term earthquake cycle simulations. A widely applied procedure involves an ‘overstressed asperity’, a localized region stressed beyond the static frictional strength. The physical properties of the asperity (size, shape and overstress) may significantly impact rupture propagation. In particular, to induce a sustained rupture the asperity size needs to exceed a critical value. Although criteria for estimating the critical nucleation size under linear slip-weakening friction have been proposed for 2-D and 3-D problems based on simplifying assumptions, they do not provide general rules for designing 3-D numerical simulations. We conduct a parametric study to estimate parameters of the asperity that minimize numerical artefacts (e.g. changes of rupture shape and speed, artificial supershear transition, higher slip-rate amplitudes). We examine the critical size of square, circular and elliptical asperities as a function of asperity overstress and background (off-asperity) stress. For a given overstress, we find that asperity area controls rupture initiation while asperity shape is of lesser importance. The critical area obtained from our numerical results contrasts with published theoretical estimates when background stress is low. Therefore, we derive two new theoretical estimates of the critical size under low background stress while also accounting for overstress. Our numerical results suggest that setting the asperity overstress and area close to their critical values eliminates strong numerical artefacts even when the overstress is large. We also find that properly chosen asperity size or overstress may significantly shorten the duration of the initiation. Overall, our results provide guidelines for determining the size of the asperity and overstress to minimize the effects of the forced initiation on the subsequent spontaneous rupture propagation.