Direct myelin imaging is promising for characterization of multiple sclerosis (MS) brains at diagnosis and in response to therapy. In this study, a 3D inversion recovery-prepared ultrashort echo time cones (IR-UTE-Cones) sequence was used for both morphological and quantitative imaging of myelin on a clinical 3 T scanner. Myelin powder phantoms with different myelin concentrations were imaged with the 3D UTE-Cones sequence and it showed a strong correlation between concentrations and UTE-Cones signals, demonstrating the ability of the UTE-Cones sequence to directly image myelin in the brain. Quantitative myelin imaging with multi-echo IR-UTE-Cones sequences show similar T * values for a D O-exchanged myelin phantom (T * = 0.33 ± 0.04 ms), ex vivo brain specimens (T * = 0.20 ± 0.04 ms) and in vivo healthy volunteers (T * = 0.254 ± 0.023 ms), further confirming the feasibility of 3D IR-UTE-Cones sequences for direct myelin imaging in vivo. In ex vivo MS brain study, signal loss is observed in MS lesions, which was confirmed with histology. For the in vivo study, the lesions in MS patients also show myelin signal loss using the proposed direct myelin imaging method, demonstrating the clinical potential for MS diagnosis. Furthermore, the measured IR-UTE-Cones signal intensities show a significant difference between normal-appearing white matter in MS patients and normal white matter in volunteers, which cannot be found in clinical used T -FLAIR sequences. Thus, the proposed 3D IR-UTE-Cones sequence showed clinical potential for MS diagnosis with the capability of direct myelin detection of the whole brain.© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.