A rigid-plastic finite element formulation for the continuum elements employing the geometric nonlinearity during an incremental time step is presented. In sheet metal deformation, the displacement for each step is considerably large even though the effective strain increment is very small. For such large displacement problems, geometric nonlinearity must be considered. In the elastic-plastic finite element using continuum elements, general incremental formulations to include the geometric nonlinearity are available. However, in the conventional rigid-plastic finite element analysis using continuum elements, the geometric nonlinearity has not been considered properly during an incremental time step. In this paper, in order to incorporate geometric nonlinearity to rigid-plastic continuum elements during a step, the convected coordinate system is introduced. To show the stability of strain distributions by the effect of geometric nonlinearity according to incremental step size, two sheet metal forming processes, stretching and deep drawing process, are analysed with various step sizes. Then the computed results using the derived equation are compared with those obtained without considering geometric nonlinearity. (C) 1997 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.