Membrane protrusions known as blebs play important roles in many cellular phenomena. Here we present three mathematical models of the bleb formation, which use biological insights to produce phenotypically accurate pressure-driven expansions. First, we introduce a recently suggested solid mechanics framework that is able to create blebs through stretching the membrane. This framework is then extended to include reference state reconfigurations, which models membrane growth. Finally, the stretching and reconfiguring mechanical models are compared with a much simpler geometrically constrained solution. This allows us to demonstrate that simpler systems are able to capture much of the biological complexity despite more restrictive assumptions. Moreover, the simplicity of the spherical model allows us to consider multiple blebs in a tractable framework. © 2014 The authors 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. All rights reserved.