Reported in the paper is an elastic-plastic contact model developed to analyze the contact performance characteristics of materials with gradient yield strength. Plastic yielding and the strain-hardening properties of the materials are taken into account. The finite element method, the initial stiffness method, and a mathematical programming technique are utilized to solve the contact model. The von Mises yield criterion is used to determine the inception of plastic deformation. Results indicate that nitrided material with appropriate gradient of yield strength may greatly alter the distributions of contact stress, contact pressure as compared with untreated material in contact. The effects of different yield strength variation path of material on von Mises stress distributions are numerically investigated and discussed.