Hydration of single or mixed phospholipids or lipid protein mixtures at low ionic strength results in the formation of a population of large, solvent free, single bilayer vesicles with included volumes of up to 300 microliters/mumol lipid. Their size ranges from 0.1 to 300 microns and they can be sorted out according to size by centrifugation. When formed in distilled water their internal solution has a conductivity of 20-50 microseconds/cm-1, an osmolarity of 0.5-5 mOsM, and a density of 1.0005-1.001. The osmotic pressure produced by the internal solutes cause a surface stress of 25 dyn/cm for a 20-microns vesicle. Their elastic constant ranges from 75-150 dyn/cm. During formation they can internalize particles such as latex beads or cell nuclei. They can be impaled with microelectrodes, or patch clamped. They can also be sealed to a small Vaseline-treated hole in a thin partition between two aqueous compartments. Sealing occurs in two stages. In the first stage sealing resistance is similar to that seen with patch-clamp pipettes. In the second stage, a much tighter seal is obtained. After sealing, the smaller portion of the sealed vesicle can be selectively broken by an electric shock leaving a single membrane across the hole. The capacitance and resistance of such membranes, in the presence of 10 mM NaCl, are approximately 0.7 microF/cm2 and 10(8) omega cm2 for pure lipid vesicles. Gramicidin increases the membrane conductance and monazomycin induces voltage-dependent gating thus providing further evidence that the vesicles are bounded by a single bilayer.