With the concept of generalized plasticity, a constitutive model for describing the deformation behavior of sandstone is proposed in this paper. This proposed model is characterized by the following features: (i) nonlinear elasticity under hydrostatic and shear loading; (ii) associated flow rule for pre-peak simulation; (iii) substantial plastic deformation during shear loading; and (iv) significant shear dilation and distortion prior to the failure state. This model requires 10 material parameters, including three for elasticity and seven for plasticity. All of the parameters can be determined, in a straightforward manner, by the suggested procedures. The proposed model has been validated by comparing the triaxial test results of the Mushan sandstone under different hydrostatic stress, different stress paths, and cyclic loading condition. It is also versatile in simulating the deformation behaviors of two other sandstones. Upon slight modification of the model, the post-peak behavior of sandstone can be reasonably predicted using proposed model. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.