This paper presents a general method for designing the transformer of flyback switching AC-DC converters based on nonlinear finite element analysis (FEA) of electromagnetic field coupled with external circuit. For that, the variation patterns of the PWM duty ratio and the current flowing through the windings of transformer versus the input voltage are introduced first, and then several important principles for the design of the transformer are given by using analytical method. As the magnetic saturation and control delay possess heavy influence on the safety of the operation, a MATLAB/Simulink based simulation model, in which both the nonlinear differential inductance and the control delay are included, is built to predict the converter transient performance. The nonlinear differential inductance is calculated by a general program of nonlinear 2-D FEA in Matlab/Simulink surrounding. By running the model, the performances of the converter with different loads and input voltages are obtained. Simulation results are in good agreement with theoretical analysis.