A three-node, Co-type, layered flat-shell finite element is developed for the analysis of large elastic-plastic deformations in plate and shell structures. The system equations are derived by using virtual work principle and the updated Lagrangian formulation. Material is assumed to be isotropic and rate insensitive obeying J(2)-flow rule. The displacement field assumption of the MIN3 plate bending element is employed. A layered structure is used to model through-the-thickness distribution of elastic and plastic zones. The finite element results for three nonlinear plate bending problems are compared with experimental results to verify the accuracy of the formulation. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.