Welding-induced deformation not only negatively affects dimension accuracy but also degrades the performance of product. If welding deformation can be accurately predicted beforehand, the predictions will be helpful for finding effective methods to improve manufacturing accuracy. Till now, there are two kinds of finite element method (FEM) which can be used to simulate welding deformation. One is the thermal elastic plastic FEM and the other is elastic FEM based on inherent strain theory. The former only can be used to calculate welding deformation for small or medium scale welded structures due to the limitation of computing speed. On the other hand, the latter is an effective method to estimate the total welding distortion for large and complex welded structures even though it neglects the detailed welding process. When the elastic FEM is used to calculate the welding-induced deformation for a large structure, the inherent deformations in each typical joint should be obtained beforehand. In this paper, a new method based on inverse analysis was proposed to obtain the inherent deformations for weld joints. Through introducing the inherent deformations obtained by the proposed method into the elastic FEM based on inherent strain theory, we predicted the welding deformation of a panel structure with two longitudinal stiffeners. In addition, experiments were carried out to verify the simulation results.