A pantographing self‐adaptive gap element type contact strategy is presented. Due to the manner of its formulation, it can handle large deformations in the contact zone, contact initiation in a structure that has either positive or indefinite stiffness characteristics, kinematic and material nonlinearities, as well as self‐adaptive load (time) stepping. Contact in pre‐ and post‐buckling structures can be treated in this context. Several illustrative benchmark problems are given. These include coming into contact with a fiat surface, and involve large deformation kinematics and inelastic behavior as well as pre‐ and post‐buckling stiffness characteristics.