Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) introduce arginine methylation, a post-translational modification with the increasingly eminent role in normal physiology and disease. PRMT4 or coactivator-associated arginine methyltransferase 1 (CARM1) is a propitious target for cancer therapy; however, few CARM1 substrates are known, and its mechanism of substrate recognition is poorly understood. Here we employed a quantitative mass spectrometry approach to globally profile CARM1 substrates in breast cancer cell lines. We identified >130 CARM1 protein substrates and validated in vitro >90% of sites they encompass. Bioinformatics analyses reveal enrichment of proline-containing motifs, in which both methylation sites and their proximal sequences are frequently targeted by somatic mutations in cancer. Finally, we demonstrate that the N-terminus of CARM1 is involved in substrate recognition and nearly indispensable for substrate methylation. We propose that development of CARM1-specific inhibitors should focus on its N-terminus and predict that other PRMTs may employ similar mechanism for substrate recognition.